Labels are designed to give us standard type information about the piece we are looking at. The term tripod here refers to the three legs supporting the vessel. Chinese ceramics are made of four basic types of materials: earthenware, stoneware, porcelain ware, and porcelain. This one is made of earthenware and has a combination of incised (carved) and sculpted (added) decoration. Chemical analysis of clay, glazes, and other materials help date a piece, but researchers also look at formal and design elements. There was a close relationship between ceramics and bronzes in ancient China (the latter made with ceramic piece molds). This piece resembles a bronze tripod vessel, especially the handles which can be seen on large ceremonial bronze cauldrons. The use of animal faces and animal motifs is used extensively on bronze surface decoration as well. The lid indicates that this piece was probably used as a container for food.