Enlarge this image. Vessel in the shape of a duck, approx. 200–300. Korea; ancient region of Gaya. Earthenware. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B63P13+.
Ancient Koreans believed birds were the messengers to the spirit world because they can travel over land and water and through the sky.  In villages figures of birds can still be seen atop tall wooden poles, recalling their earlier importance.  Because they mate for life, even today Koreans especially favor ducks.  Many duck-shaped vessels have been discovered in tombs in the ancient regions of Gaya and Silla, suggesting their importance in those ancient cultures (42–562).
The prominent opening on the back and tail indicates that this vessel was used to serve wine or to pour purified water at special rituals and ceremonies. Compared to those dated to the fifth and sixth centuries which have a more naturalistic appearance and have been fired to the hardness of stoneware, earlier examples like this piece were fired only to the hardness of earthenware and were probably not suited for practical purposes.  Although the duck has lost the lowest everted part of its tubular stand, its whimsical expression has endearing and intriguing qualities.