One of the great mysteries of ancient China is the origin and meaning of the terrifying animal faces on Shang ritual vessels. These faces look down on us from the distance of 3,000 years but are just as awe and terror-inspiring as they were during the Shang period. Although the pattern occurs on virtually all bronze vessels, almost nothing is known today about them, except their name: Taotie (Chinese: 饕餮). A later source reveals that the taotie is man-eating beast that harms people. The ferocious look of the face would seem to confirm this hypothesis.