In 1922 some farmers in Taoyuan County, Hunan Province, China, dug up a beautiful cast bronze vessel with a lid. The farmer's son took the lid to school to ask his teacher what it was. The teacher saw that it was something wonderful and raked up 800 silver dollars to buy it. Someone else heard about it and bought the vessel itself for 400 silver dollars. So the two parts went their separate ways. The lid finished up in the hands of an army officer, who gave it to the Hunan Provincial government in 1952
The body finished up in the hands of the Shanghai City government, but during the chaos of the times, was sold to foreigners, eventually being bought by a French collector in 2001 for the huge sum of $9,246,000. His recent death saw it back on the market.
Hunan Museum thought there was little chance of buying the vessel's body and displaying it complete, but a group of Chinese businessmen from both China and Taiwan negotiated a deal that brought it back to China and the complete vessel will soon be on display in the Hunan Museum.
The vessel was made as a wine serving vessel and stands around 600 mm (two feet) high.
The history blog of Livius describes it:
The vessel’s massive size distinguishes this extraordinary work as one of the foremost examples of its kind. The surface is intricately cast with stylized animals and mysterious monster masks that provide a fascinating insight into early Chinese culture and beliefs. The crisp, precise casting of this complex design vividly illustrates why bronze vessels created during the Shang and Zhou dynasties rank among the finest examples of bronze casting the world has ever seen.
FYI: The Shang dynasty existed between the mid 18th C BCE and the mid 11th C BCE and was followed by the Zhou Dynasty which at its end in the third C BCE was only a nominal ruler of China.