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Printed by CA Design, Hong Kong Photography, Richard Goodbody ÂŠ Copyright Nicholas Grindley 2019
This catalogue is accompanied by an exhibition at Hazlitt, 17 East 76th Street, 2nd Floor arranged as part of Asia Week, New York 2019, 13 â€“ 22 March.
In the course of centuries there has developed in China a special tradition regarding the paraphernalia of the library, which includes all the cherished objects literati and artists have always had near at hand. Paper and writing brush, ink and ink slab––referred to as Wen-fang-szu-pao 文房四寶 (The Four Treasures of the Library)––and also all other accessories directly or indirectly connected with literary and artistic activities have been studied with loving care by generations of scholars and connoisseurs. One need not wonder that not only the Four Treasures but also brush stands and paper weights, seals and seal pads, rulers and paper knives, incense burners and flower vases and other smaller and larger objects one finds on the desk in a Chinese library have become choice works of art; although in form and material they conform to certain conventional patterns, tradition leaves ample scope for individual artistic expression. –R. H. van Gulik, from “A Note on Ink Cakes,” Monumenta Nipponica 11, no. 1 (1955)
1 A zitan root paperweight attributed to Cheng Sui (1605–1691), 17th century 程邃 (1605–1691) 款詩文紫檀鎮紙 十七世紀 A paperweight carved from zitan root to look like a natural weathered root. The underside is incised with two inscriptions: the first 柯如青銅根如石 may be read as “[Its] branches are like bronze and roots like stone”; the second 江東布衣 , 歙縣程邃吟刻 as “Chanted and carved by Cheng Sui, whose sobriquet is Jiangdong Buyi (Commoner from the East of the River), from She County, Anhui Province.” China. Late Ming–early Qing dynasty, 17th century. length 25.4 cm / 10 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. Cheng Sui (1605–1691), also called Muqian, was a native of Shexian, Anhui Province. Like many traditional literati artists, Cheng mastered painting, writing and poetry. He was also an accomplished calligrapher and epigrapher, was able to read the script on archaic bronzes and was one of the best seal carvers of his time. Cheng Sui belonged to a group of loyalist-literati known as “yimin,” or “left-over people,” who refused to transfer their political allegiances from the native Ming to the alien Qing rulers. His dissent was expressed in the literary name he took for himself, Goudaoren (dusty or grim monk), indicating his regret and pain at being unable to stop the foreign conqueror. For a more comprehensive biography, see James Cahill, ed., Shadows of Mt. Huang, Chinese Painting and Printing of the Anhui School (University Art Museum, Berkeley, 1981), pages 110–14. Examples of his paintings are in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (a small hanging scroll, My Teacher Cheng Yuanji, B69D43), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (a hanging scroll, Reading under a Tree in Autumn, on loan from the Chih Lo Lou Collection, Hong Kong) and The Art Gallery of New South Wales (an album of landscapes, EP47.1962).
The verse inscribed on the underside of the paperweight is taken from the poem “Ballad of the Old Cypress” 古柏行 composed by the Tang-dynasty poet Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770) around 766: 孔明廟前有老柏，柯如青銅根如石。 霜皮溜雨四十圍，黛色參天二千尺。 君臣已與時際會，樹木猶為人愛惜。 雲來氣接巫峽長，月出寒通雪山白。 憶昨路繞錦亭東，先主武侯衕閟宮。 崔嵬枝乾郊原古，窈窕丹青戶牖空。 落落盤踞雖得地，冥冥孤高多烈風。 扶持自是神明力，正直原因造化功。 大廈如傾要梁棟，萬牛回首丘山重。 不露文章世已驚，未辭剪伐誰能送。 苦心豈免容螻蟻，香葉終經宿鸞鳳。 誌士幽人莫怨嗟，古來材大難為用。 Before Kongming’s shrine stands an ancient cypress. Its branches are like green bronze, its roots just like stone. The frosted bark, slippery with rain, is forty spans around, Its blackness blends into the sky two thousand feet above. Master and servant have each already reached their time’s end. The tree, however, still remains, receiving man’s devotion. Clouds come and bring the air of Wuxia Gorge’s vastness, The moon comes out, along with the cold of snowy mountain whiteness. I think back to the winding road, east of Brocade Pavilion, Where the military master and his lord of old share a hidden temple. Towering that trunk, those branches, on the ancient plain, Hidden paintings, red and black, doors and windows empty. Spreading wide, coiling down, though it holds the earth, In the dim and distant heights are many violent winds. That which gives it its support must be heaven’s strength, The reason for its uprightness, the creator’s skill. If a great hall should teeter, wanting rafters and beams, Ten thousand oxen would turn their heads towards its mountain’s weight. Its potential unrevealed, the world’s already amazed, Nothing would stop it being felled, but what man could handle it? Its bitter heart cannot avoid the entry of the ants, Its fragrant leaves have always given shelter to the phoenix. Ambitious scholars, reclusive hermits- neither needs to sigh; Always it’s the greatest timber that’s hardest to put to use. The complete poem and its translation by David Hawkes, is taken from <http://www.chinese poems.com/d48t.html>. An album, now in the Anhui Provincial Museum, entitled Illustrations of Du Fu’s Poems was painted as a gift to Cheng Sui’s friend Zha Shibiao (1615–1698) with each of the twelve leaves inscribed with a verse from Du Fu’s poems, implying that Cheng Sui was fond of and familiar with Du Fu’s work. I am indebted to Kunhua Liu for her translations and research on this and almost all of the other entries.
2 A banana-leaf-shaped inkstone with a Zhao Mengfu inscription, 17th century 趙孟頫款芭蕉硯 十七世紀 An inkstone carved in the shape of a banana leaf made from a dense and heavy unidentified stone with all but the rubbing surface covered with a thin layer of red lacquer. The slightly recessed, curved rubbing surface of elongated oval shape with a sloping channel between the edge of the rubbing surface and the upturned edge of the leaf with a deep ink pool towards the stem. The underside with a large oval and two smaller round feet, the flat base with an apocryphal incised eight-character inscription 其質似玉。其音鏘然 and signed Zi’ang 子昂 (Zhao Mengfu, 趙孟頫 ). China. Late Ming–early Qing dynasty, 17th century. length 23 cm / 9 1/8 in width 12 cm / 4 3/4 in Provenance: Private collection, Princeton, New Jersey. The hongmu cover, which is carved to conform to the banana-leaf-shape, probably dates from the time when it was in a Japanese collection; a Japanese wood box made for the inkstone with an ink inscription on the sliding cover, Manfu Hizo suzuri, or the secret treasure inkstone of Zhao Mengfu. The inkstone was sold from a Japanese collection at China Guardian (Beijing) on 13 December 2008 catalogued as chengni, an inkstone made from fired silt from a river bed. Yet, the overall weight of the inkstone, in addition to the manner in which the surface of the rubbing area has scratched, suggests that the material is stone rather than a fine fired clay. The Japanese ink inscription on the box indicates how highly it was prized by its Japanese owner.
3 A circular ink cake with a scene from the poem Guan Ju, Kangxi period, dated 1676 「關雎」圖圓墨錠 清康熙 1676 年 A circular ink cake with a design of craggy mountains, two trees and an osprey, in the lower left, all within a wide, raised, flat border. The reverse has a central rectangular cartouche with two characters, 雎鳩 Jujiu (osprey). The right side of the ink has a raised moulded inscription, 臣彭定求恭製 , “Produced with respect by your servant Peng Dingqiu,” and the left side of the ink has another raised moulded inscription, 康熙丙辰年 , “The bingchen year of Kangxi’s reign,” corresponding to 1676. China. Qing dynasty, Kangxi period, dated 1676. diameter 10.9 cm / 4 1/4 in thickness 1.8 cm / 3/4 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. The front of this ink cake is moulded with a scene described in the first verse of the seventhcentury poem Guan Ju, 關雎 (“Guan” Cry the Ospreys), 關關雎鳩，在河之洲 “’Guan guan’ cry the ospreys on the islet in the river.” Peng Dingqiu (1645–1719), also named Peng Qinzhi 彭勤止 and Peng Nanyun 彭南畇 and born in Suzhou, was the zhuangyuan, the top-ranking candidate in the highest imperial examination, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1676), the same year that this ink cake was produced. He was appointed xiuzhuan 修撰 (senior compiler) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院 to assist in writing imperial history.
4 A black lacquer brush inlaid with gold foil and mother-of-pearl, Kangxi period (1662–1722) 黑漆嵌金箔螺鈿筆 清康熙 (1662–1722) A black lacquer brush inlaid on handle and cap in the lac burgauté technique with stylised flowerheads in gold foil and mother-of-pearl, the end of the handle inlaid with the auspicious character fu and the end of the cap with the longevity character shou. China. Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662–1722). length 21.6 cm / 8 1/2 in Contained within a Japanese wood box with a paper label partially read as aogai fude, “aogai (mother-of-pearl) brush.” Provenance: Spink, London 1994. Nicholas Grindley, London (0694-06). John C. Weber Collection, New York from 1994 to 2017. Published: Far Eastern Art at Spink (1994), no. 37. Exhibited: “Far Eastern Art at Spink,” 1–17 June 1994. This type of extremely fine inlay of gold leaf and mother-of-pearl is closely associated with the most famous Qing-dynasty artist of this craft, Jiang Qianli. Little is known about the life and dates of Jiang Qianli as the inlaid seals found on much of his work read only Qianli and because there are several surnames associated with him, all pronounced Jiang (James C. Y. Watt and Barbara Brennan Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection , no. 63). Most of Jiang Qianli’s extant work consists of mallow-shaped boxes and circular, domed boxes. For an example of the former, see Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio (1986), no.144, subsequently sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection, Scholarly Art III, 8 April 2013, lot 180 (US$112,714). For a circular, domed box, see Paul Moss, Emperor Scholar Artisan Monk (1984), no. 116, where the entry contains a discussion of Jiang Qianli. 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer (Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, 1993), no. 93, shows a Qianli-marked globular box. The same exhibition included a vase of similar technique with a two-character Qianlong mark from the collection of Dr. Hu Shih-Chang (no. 98), subsequently sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Part 1, 8 April 2014, lot 53, where the mark is described as apocryphal and the vase is ascribed a nineteenth-century date (US$67,655). Another, unmarked lacquer brush with very similar inlay but lacking the fu and shou characters from the Jiansong Ge Collection was sold at China Guardian, Beijing, 16 May 2010, lot 2424 (RMB246,400 / US$36,072).
5 A bamboo wrist rest with lightly incised calligraphy, dated 1727 竹刻詩文臂擱 清雍正 1727 年 A curved bamboo wrist rest with a lightly incised calligraphy poem, signed and dated “Bo’an on the first day of the third month of the fifth year of Yongzheng’s reign,” corresponding to 1727. The reverse is carefully polished. China. Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period, dated 1727. length 26 cm / 10 1/4 in Provenance: Hei Hunglu, Hong Kong. Nicholas Grindley, London (0195-02). John C. Weber Collection, New York from 1995 to 2018.
有一巨鱗，東海波臣，洗靜月浦，涵丹錦津，映紅蓮而得性，戲碧浪以全身。宕而失水，屆於陽瀕。 漁者觀焉，乃具竿索，集朋黨，鳧趣雀躍，風馳電往，競下任公之釣，爭陳豫且之網，螻蟻見而 甘心，獱獺聞而抵掌。於是長舌利嘴，曳綸爭鉤，拖鬐挫鬣，撫背扼喉。動搖不可，騰踴無由， 有懷纖潤，寧望洪流？大鵬過而哀之曰：“昔予為鯤也，與爾遊乎！自余羽化之後，爾其遺孤。” 俄撫翼而下，負之而趨，南浮七澤，東汎五湖，是魚也已相忘於江海，而漁者猶悵望於泥塗。 雍正五年又三月之朔檗葊書 The inscription may be translated as: There is a gigantic fish [living] in the Eastern Sea. [It] cleanses [itself] in the moonlit riverside and immerses [itself] in the sunlit water reddened by the glow of the sun. [It] reflects [itself] in the red lotus so as to cultivate [its] disposition and plays in the green waves to develop [its] body. [Once, the fish] loafed around and left the water, and arrived at the northern shore [of the Eastern Sea]. A fisherman saw [the fish], then he prepared rods and lines and assembled his companions. [They were exuberant like] waddling ducks and hopping sparrows, heading towards [the fish] as swiftly as the wind and lightning. They competed to cast fishing lines [with livestock as baits], as Rengong did [to catch a big fish],1 and to set up fishing nets as Yuqie did [to capture an immortal turtle].2 Mole crickets and ants were gleeful when they saw this, and otters clapped their hands when they heard about this. Hence, [the mole crickets and the otters] stretched their tongues and sharpened their mouths [while the fishermen] dragged the fishing lines and scrambled for the hooks; hauled and chopped off the fins of the fish; squeezed its back and strangled its throat. Thus, the fish was unable to move or jump. “[I would revive] with a small amount of water. How can I get [ back to] the mighty torrent?” 3 The enormous bird Peng flew past and pitied the fish: “When I was the enormous fish Kun,4 I swam with you! After I was transformed [into a bird], you were left alone.” All of a sudden, [Peng] flapped his wings and flew quickly away, carrying the fish [on its back]. They floated southwards across the seven marshes [of the Kingdom of Chu] and eastwards over the five lakes [near Yangzhou]. The fish [was finally back to the water, and the two friends] have already forgotten each other in the river and sea.5 Whereas, the fishermen were still [standing] in the mire, sullenly gazing [into the water]. Written by Bo’an on the first day of the third month of the fifth year of Yongzheng’s reign 1
The fishing story Rengong is recorded in the section of “External Things” in “Miscellaneous Chapters” of ( 莊子．雜篇．外物》). the book Zhuangzi 《 2 The story of Yuqie capturing an immortal turtle is also recorded in “External Things” in Zhuangzi ( 莊子．外物》). 《 3 The two sentences 有懷纖潤，寧望洪流 ? derive from a story concerning Master Zhuang and an official ( 莊子．外物》). Zhuang compares who supervises rivers, recorded in “External Things” in Zhuangzi 《 himself to a dying carp to criticize the stingy official, who made an empty promise. 4 Peng is a giant bird transformed from the giant fish Kun in Chinese mythology. The legend is recorded in ( 莊子．逍遙遊》). the section “Free and Easy Wandering” in the book Zhuangzi 《 5 This sentence is derived from the story of two dying fish in the section “The Movements of Heaven” in ( 莊子．大宗師．天運》). “Have forgotten each other in “Great Ancestral Masters” of the book Zhuangzi 《 the river and sea/lake” means the dying fish has survived and is busy living life.
6 An oval vermilion ink cake with crane and turtle, Qianlong period (1736–1795) 龜鶴紋橢圓硃砂墨錠 清乾隆 (1736–1795) An oval ink cake moulded from vermilion ink with a crane with its wings spread to conform to the oval shape of the top edge and with a turtle on its back with the shell conforming to the lower edge, both flanking a central raised four-character seal within a square 龜鶴齊秀 read as “Turtle and crane of equivalent elegance.” The reverse is impressed with a four-character inscription 龜鶴齊年 read as “Turtle and crane of comparable longevity” centred by a stylised flower spray at either side contained within a slightly raised edge; the inscription and floral sprays are painted gold. The right side of the ink moulded with a raised inscription 大清乾隆年製 “Produced during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Great Qing.” China. Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736–1795). height 9 cm / 3 1/2 in width 6.6 cm / 2 5/8 in thickness 1.2 cm / 1/2 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong.
7 A rectangular ink cake with a design of the Eight Immortals, Qianlong period (1736–1795) 八仙過海圖矩形墨錠 清乾隆 (1736–1795) A rectangular ink cake moulded with a scene of the Eight Immortals crossing the ocean accompanied by a giant fish and a dragon within a narrow, raised, flat border. The reverse with an impressed eight-character inscription, 群仙過海 喜樂無邊 , read as “Immortals crossing the ocean with endless gaiety,” also within a narrow raised flat border. The right side of the ink has a raised, moulded inscription reading Qianlong nian zhi 乾隆年製 ,“Made during the Qianlong reign.” China. Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736–1795). height 14.2 cm / 5 5/8 in width 10.2 cm / 4 in thickness 1.6 cm / 5/8 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong.
8 A square ink cake moulded with a scene from the poem “Ode to the Ink” by the Qianlong emperor, Qianlong period (1736–1795) 乾隆「詠墨詩」圖方墨錠 清乾隆 (1736–1795) A nearly square ink cake with rounded corners and raised, flat border moulded with a scene from the Emperor Qianlong’s poem 詠墨詩 , “Ode to the Ink.” The scene shows two figures, in what appears to be deep discussion, seated on drum stools in a pavilion surrounded by trees and rocks enclosed by a fence. A crane stands on one leg in the foreground and a smaller pavilion is in the upper right beside the garden stream. The reverse, within the same raised, flat border, is moulded with lotuses and many other flowers surrounding a raised, central square reserve with the inscription 喚卿呼子謂多 事 read as “There is no need to summon officials and youths [to come view the ink].” The side of the ink is moulded in relief with the inscription 大清乾隆汪節庵製 “Produced by Wang Jie’an during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Great Qing.” China. Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736–1795). width 10.1 cm / 4 in height 10.5 cm / 4 1/8 in thickness 1.2 cm / 1/2 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong, with box label inscribed in ink “Anhui square landscape ink 27/3/93.” The Emperor Qianlong’s poem “Ode to the Ink” reads: 與茶奚必較新陳 用佐文房孰比倫 歷歷千言照今古 超超六法顯精神 呼卿喚子謂多事 玩日愒時斯枉珍 磨盡思王才八斗 依月犬研北此龍賓
Why compare [inks] as [one compares] tea according to their ages? Inks should be used in study [to see] which one is unrivalled. Innumerable words [written with ink] have passed down through the ages. The Six Methods [of painting] convey the spirit [of the subjects depicted]. There is no need to summon officials and youths [to come view the ink]. It will be wasteful of the ink if one fritters away his time and days. Having exhausted the great talents of King Si (Cao Zhi 192–232 AD) this extraordinary ink remains on the desk.
Wang Jie’an, also named Wang Xuanli 汪宣禮 and Wang Rongwu 汪蓉塢 , is a native of County She, Anhui Province. He earned a living as an ink producer. His Hanpu Zhai 函璞齋 (Jade Containing Studio) was one of the most famous ink stores during the reign of the emperors Qianlong, Jiaqing and Daoguang. His writings include Record of Ink by Hanpu Zhai 函璞齋墨譜 , which documented more than eighty types of ink.
9 A bronze paperweight in the form of a dog and puppy, 18th century 銅臥雙犬鎮紙 十八世紀 A bronze paperweight that fits in the palm of one’s hand cast as a curled dog resting her head on her tail, while her tiny pup affectionately licks the mother’s face. Details of the casting include the dog’s open eyes and large floppy ears, a distinct backbone, long tail curled over its haunches and incised lines to indicate fur and dimpled nose. The dog’s right leg is pulled up under the body and the two front paws rest one on top of the other. Patinated a rich black-brown with some lighter inclusions. China. Qing dynasty, 18th century. width 6.5 cm / 2 1/2 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong.
10 A bamboo wrist rest incised with the essay Dushu Zhen, 18th century 竹刻「讀書箴」臂擱 十八世紀 A curved bamboo wrist rest with a lightly incised calligraphy essay titled Dushu Zhen 讀書箴 (Admonition on Study), written by Fang Xiaoru, 方孝孺 (1357–1402). The reverse smooth and unpolished. China. Qing dynasty, 18th century. length 28.2 cm / 11 1/8 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. The calligraphy inscribed on the wrist rest is the essay Dushu Zhen 讀書箴 (Admonition on Study), written by Fang Xiaoru 方孝孺 (1357–1402; also named Fang Zhengxue 方正學 ), an orthodox Confucian scholar-bureaucrat of the Ming dynasty. He was executed because he refused to write an inaugural address for Emperor Yongle (r. 1402–24), who usurped the throne from his nephew, Emperor Jianwen (r. 1398–1402). The lines read: 聚談少則功夫易成，戲謔少則交道可久。出入有時則心性不亂，坐立有體則人品端嚴。 往來之人不交匪類則牽引無人，爾汝之稱不掛齒頰則輕薄自遠。吝色驕心隨時猛省則尤悔何 愁不寡，躁情客氣逐念克除則睚眥誰得相加。陰私不許，容過失於朋儕，則厚道自我而全。 從諫如流喜箴規於師友，則大益自我而獲。樂 砥礪，發憤讀書，不惟功名可成，亦足變化 氣質。 To achieve good workmanship, one should spend less time gathering and chatting [with others]. To promote longer lasting friendships, one should not always crack jokes. Working and resting according to schedule prevents one’s mind from being disturbed by intrusive thoughts. Sitting and standing with dignity cultivates one’s graceful and rigorous dispositions. Do not have dealings with people behaving badly, and no one can impede you. Do not use affectionate forms to address others, and you avoid being accused of flirting. Reflect on your unpleasantness and arrogance [towards others] profoundly, and faults and remorse will be reduced. Restrain your agitated temper and chaotic emotions gradually, and petty grievances will not affect you. To be an honest and generous person, one should not involve oneself in shady deals and should be tolerant of mistakes made by peers. To reap substantial rewards, one should follow good advice readily and unselfishly provide admonishments to teachers and friends. Being gregarious, encouraging, determined and studious not only guarantees your success, but also influences your temperament. The phrase “ 躁情客氣 (agitated temper and polite manner)” in the 8th line above is miswritten and should be “ 躁情亂氣 (agitated temper and chaotic emotions).”
11 A small rootwood sculpture of Guanyin, probably 18th century 木根雕觀音像小擺件 約十八世紀 A small sculpture of Guanyin fashioned from a natural root with just the torso and head carved with details of the drapery, face and coiffure, the rest of the sculpture left in its natural root state to indicate the rocky outcropping on which Guanyin customarily is shown seated. The sculpture is patinated a rich brown colour on the smooth surfaces and is a darker brown, almost black colour, in the areas where other roots joined the main root. China. Qing dynasty, probably 18th century. height 14 cm / 5 1/2 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. Published: Robert Piccus, ed., Wood from the Scholar’s Table: Chinese Hardwood Carvings and Scholar’s Articles (Hong Kong: Altfield Gallery, 1984), no. 100.
12 A rectangular ink cake with a design of plum blossoms and magpies, probably 18th century 梅鵲圖矩形墨錠 約十八世紀 A rectangular ink cake moulded with a scene of two magpies on a blossoming plum branch within a narrow, raised, flat border. The reverse has a two-character inscription 梅鵲 , read as “Plum blossoms with magpies” and a four-character seal 上壽百二十 read as “The greatest longevity [man can reach] is one hundred and twenty years,” both filled in with gold paint and also within a narrow, raised, flat border. The side of the ink with the raised moulded inscription 徽歙老胡開文製 , read as “Produced by the Old Hu Kaiwen [Ink Factory] in County She, Anhui Province.” China. Qing dynasty, probably 18th century. height 9.8 cm / 3 7/8 in width 5.9 cm / 2 3/8 in thickness 1.6 cm / 5/8 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. Hu Kaiwen (1742–1808), also named Hu Zhuchen 胡柱臣 and Hu Zaifeng 胡在豐 , a renowned ink merchant active in Anhui Province during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. He learned inkmaking from his teacher Wang Qimao 汪啟茂 . “Hu Kaiwen” has become a time-honoured brand of ink in China. The Hu Kaiwen ink factory was opened in 1782 and is still producing ink cakes today.
13 A zitan root incense-stick holder, 18th century 紫檀根香筒 十八世紀 A naturally formed zitan root holder for sticks of incense, chosen because its natural form simulates the textures and fissures of rock. One side is additionally carved from the paler, brown sapwood with bamboo branches and a knot. The flat top of the vessel has a raised edge conforming to the silhouette of the cliff column and the foot is flat with an irregular central recess. China. Qing dynasty, 18th century. height 11.8 cm / 4 5/8 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong.
14 A huanghuali small table cabinet, 18th century 黃花梨小官皮箱 十八世紀 A huanghuali small table cabinet of upright rectangular shape with two doors of mitred, mortice and tenon construction with single, flush, floating panels. The top sides and back boards are unframed panels. Each door is mounted with two rectangular hinges, unusually pinned rather than retained by split pins. The circular lock-plate is mounted with two square bosses pierced to conform to the fixed boss mounted on the interior frame. Beneath the lock-plate are two drop handles secured, as is the lock-plate, by split pins. The top edges of the box are reinforced with simple brass strap-work, much of which has been replaced. A plain rectangular carrying handle is through-tenoned into the square plinth and has shaped spandrels on each side where it joins the plinth. Each corner joint is also reinforced with brass strap-work. The interior has two long drawers, two short drawers and one deep drawer, all with softwood drawer linings and mounted with brass drop handles with foliate back-plates secured by split pins. China. Qing dynasty, 18th century. height 21.8 cm / 8 1/2 in width 18.8 cm / 7 3/8 in depth 13.4 cm / 5 1/4 in Provenance: Private collection, San Francisco. A zitan table cabinet of almost identical form but with triangular parquetry panels on the doors is illustrated by Marcus Flacks in Custodians of the Scholar’s Way, Chinese Scholar’s Objects in Precious Woods (Rasika, 2014), page 372. Another similar table cabinet, but with a rectangular lock-plate, is illustrated in J. J. Lally & Co, Chinese Art from the Scholar’s Studio (Spring 2015), no. 59.
15 A zitan wrist rest carved with a scholar reading a book, 18th century 紫檀雕松下讀書圖臂擱 十八世紀 A zitan wrist rest of tapering, rectangular shape carved to simulate a bamboo wrist rest with relief decoration of a scholar by a rocky outcrop reading a book, a section of pine tree branches growing from the rockface above his head. The lower section of the rest is carved to simulate the node in the bamboo. The reverse reinforces this conceit by leaving part of the internal diaphragm. The edges of the underside also are carved with incised channels that terminate in scrolls, which serve as shallow feet. China. Qing dynasty, 18th century. length 24.1 cm / 9 1/2 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong.
16 A circular ink cake moulded with a scene from the Yanzi Jian (Swallow Messenger), Jiaqing period (1796–1820) 「燕子箋」插圖圓墨錠 清嘉慶 (1796–1820) A circular ink cake moulded with a scene from the Yanzi Jian (Swallow Messenger), a romantic opera written by Ruan Dacheng, 阮大鋮 (1587–1646), an official and playwright of the late Ming dynasty. The scene depicts two female figures at a painting table in a pavilion, one seated grinding ink and one just rising from a horseshoe-back armchair to touch another object on the table, the window opening onto a garden of rocks and gnarled pine tree. Two swallows fly amidst wispy clouds against the sun in the upper left. The scene is contained within a narrow raised, flat border. The reverse is moulded with a central circular reserve with a five-character inscription in seal script, 燕子箋插圖 read as “An illustration from the Yanzi Jian,” the raised edge of the reserve highlighted in blue ink. Around the central reserve is a wide panel moulded with stylised flowers and scrolling tendrils, also contained within a narrow raised flat border matching the one on the figure side. The right side moulded with the raised inscription, 大清嘉慶方輔製 , “Produced by Fang Fu during the reign of Emperor Jiaqing of the Great Qing.” China. Qing dynasty, Jiaqing period (1796–1820). diameter 10.8 cm / 4 1/4 in thickness 1.2 cm / 1/2 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong, with box label inscribed in ink “Anhui round landscape ink 27/3/93.”
17 A bamboo desk accessory carved to simulate a section of bamboo, late 18th–early 19th century 竹形竹根雕擺件 十八世紀末至十九世紀初 A long, narrow and slightly arched section of bamboo culm carved to simulate a section of growing bamboo, with leafy branches at each end and with nodes delineated by double waved lines that repeat on the reverse. China. Qing dynasty, late 18th–early 19th century. length 22.5 cm / 8 7/8 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. Published: Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio (1986), no. 23, pages 60–61. Exhibited: “Arts from the Scholar’s Studio,” Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, 24 October–13 December 1986, no. 23 (paper exhibition label affixed to underside of the accessory). In their catalogue entry in Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss describe this object as a wrist rest, however the slenderness and pliability of this carving make it unsuitable for that purpose, despite its slight curvature. It is not heavy enough to be a paperweight. Quite what it was intended to be is difficult to define; was it a ruler or other marker, or was it simply a delicate object for the scholar’s desk? Moss and Tsang raise the interesting point that the design executed here does “reaffirm the similarities between wrist rests and paintings in the artist’s approach to pictorial arrangement of an essentially flat, elongated rectangular format.”
18 A circular, coin-shaped ink cake with a design of boys playing, Jiaqing period (1796–1820) 仿古幣式童戲圖圓墨錠 清嘉慶 (1796–1820) A circular ink cake modelled on a Da Quan Wu Shi, “Big Coin Fifty” 大泉五十 , a circular cash coin introduced by Wang Mang (circa 45 BCE–23 CE), who founded the Xin dynasty and ruled from 9–23 CE.1 Here, two playful boys are added to the centre square. On either side of the central square are the characters 大泉 , Da Quan, the “Great” or “Big Coin,” in seal script. The whole design is contained within a wide raised flat border. The reverse repeats the coin design and has an inscription also in seal script on either side of the raised central square 銅錢眼里打跟鬥 , read as “Perform a somersault in the hole in the centre of a copper coin.” 2 The right side of the ink with a raised, moulded inscription 清嘉慶汪節庵製 “Produced by Wang Jie’an during the reign of Emperor Jiaqing of the Qing.” China. Qing dynasty, Jiaqing period (1796–1820). diameter 8.8 cm / 3 7/16 in thickness 1.3 cm / 17/32 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong, with box label inscribed in ink “Anhui Circle Boys Ink 27/3/93.” 1
The Big Coin Fifty was the largest of the “Six Coins” introduced in the first reform of Wang Mang in 7 CE, but was discontinued, along with the other coins, in 14 CE. 2 This expression can be found in eighteenth to nineteenth-century Qing literature, such as He Dian 何典 (The World of Ghosts) and Meng Bi Sheng Hua 夢筆生花 (Dreamed Pen Producing Flowers).
19 A cylindrical bamboo message holder, xiaoxi, carved in liuqing low relief, late 18th–early 19th century 留青竹刻消息筒 十八世紀末至十九世紀初 A small cylindrical, suspending bamboo message holder with interior, separate cylinder, both secured by sliding silk cords. The tube is carved in a technique known as liuqing (literally, “retaining the green”), whereby the outer skin of the bamboo is retained and worked into design, here with a male figure playing the qin with an attendant seated beside him, and with two female figures separated from the qin player by a rocky outcrop within a background of mountains and trees and swirling clouds. The outer cylinder is mounted at the top and bottom with buffalo-horn ends that are stained black. From the lower black end, the cord pulls out the smaller cylinder that fits inside to hold a rolled message slip; this inner tube is uncarved, but with colour and sheen matching the exterior polish, and also has black buffalo-horn caps on each end. The internal cylinder is fitted with a silk cord with a sliding knot and the exterior cylinder is fitted with a silk cord strung with an amber bead at the upper end and a bamboo bead on the lower. China. Qing dynasty, late 18th–early 19th century. length 11.2 cm / 4 7/16 in Provenance: John C. Weber Collection, New York from 1994 to 2017. For a discussion of the uses and dating of xiaoxi, message holders, see Simon Kwan, Ming and Qing Bamboo (University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2000), nos. 111, 112 and 131, where the author explains that message holders of this type were popular accoutrements known in the Qing dynasty as xiaoxi tubes that could be suspended vertically from garments: “They were used to store and send messages. They were actually re-usable envelopes and unique to the owner so one could identify the sender of the message.”
20 A zitan tray inlaid with a design of prunus, camellias and lingzhi, late 18th–early 19th century 紫檀嵌百寶梅花牡丹紋盤 十八世紀末至十九世紀初 A zitan tray of rectangular shape with lobed corners and raised, beaded edge and flat rim. The well is inlaid with budding and flowering branches of prunus, camellias and a stand of auspicious lingzhi fungus in mother-of-pearl, coral, white and green-stained bone, malachite, lapis lazuli, turquoise and ebony. China. Qing dynasty, late 18th–early 19th century. width 16.8 cm / 6 9/16 in depth 12.1 cm / 4 3/4 in Provenance: The Peony collection, Hong Kong. For a discussion of this type of inlay that originated in the Zhou Zhu workshop (hallmark Zhouzhi) of the late Ming dynasty, see Curtis Evarts, “The Zhouzhi Tradition, Inlaid Hardwood Furnishings of the Late Ming and Qing Dynasties” in Liang Yi Collection, Small Objects (Hong Kong, 2007), pages 62–75. For a brushpot inlaid in the same technique, see number 21 in this catalogue.
21 A zitan brushpot inlaid with prunus and peonies, late 18th–early 19th century 紫檀嵌百寶梅花牡丹紋筆筒 十八世紀末至十九世紀初 A zitan brushpot of slightly flared, cylindrical form with a slightly rounded rim and wide foot with an inset plug. Inlaid in high relief on one side of the exterior in mother-ofpearl, coral, green-stained bone, malachite, lapis lazuli, turquoise and buffalo horn with prunus branches and peonies. China. Qing dynasty, late 18th–early 19th century. height 14.6 cm / 5 3/4 in diameter 13.6 cm / 5 3/8 in Provenance: The Peony Collection, Hong Kong. Another zitan brushpot inlaid in a similar technique acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1855 (2159-1855) is illustrated in Craig Clunas, Chinese Carving (Victoria & Albert Museum, 1996), fig. 71, page 62 with date 1750–1850. For a discussion of this type of inlay work, which was produced by the Zhou Zhu workshop (hallmark Zhouzhi) of the late Ming dynasty, see Curtis Evarts, “The Zhouzhi Tradition, Inlaid Hardwood Furnishings of the Late Ming and Qing Dynasties” in Liang Yi Collection, Small Objects (Hong Kong, 2007), pages 62–75.
22 An earthenware roof tile re-purposed as an inkstone contained within a hongmu box, Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–9 CE), the box Qing dynasty, Daoguang period (1821–1850) 瓦硯 西漢 ( 公元前 206—公元 9 年 ) 配紅木盒 清道光 (1821–1850) An earthenware roof-tile end moulded with an auspicious four-character inscription read as Changle weiyang (felicity without end) re-purposed as an inkstone. Its broken shape has been accentuated as an inkstone in the form of a peach by carving the reverse with leaves and branches on one side. The grinding surface framed by the leaves is in the shape of a peach and is finished with black lacquer. The accompanying hongmu box and cover is carved in the same outline of a peach and on the cover with leaves. China. Inkstone Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–9 CE); box Qing dynasty, Daoguang period (1821–1850). width 17.1 cm / 6 3/4 in height 19.8 cm / 7 3/4 in Provenance: Private American collection acquired in Hong Kong or China between 1950 and 1970. A complete tile end from the Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1994.605.99) is moulded with the same four-character inscription. The website entry for that object remarks that the inscription is a common auspicious saying used in the Western Han dynasty and that Changle and Weyang were also names of royal palaces in the Han period. The conversion of an earthenware roof tile end to an inkstone is rarely as successful as the transposition achieved here. Two Western Han pottery tiles likewise adapted as inkstones, without the grinding surface being carved to a new design, were sold at Christie’s, New York, Important Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum, 15 March 2017, lot 519 (US$112,500).
23 A bamboo wrist rest with incised calligraphy, 19th century 竹刻詩臂擱 十九世紀 A curved bamboo wrist rest deeply incised with four lines of calligraphy, a poem composed by Su Ziqing 蘇子卿 from the Chen dynasty (557–589) of the Southern (Six) Dynasties, with three seals: one on the upper right in an oblong reserve read as Ri Sandou Wenzhan 日三斗文章 , and two on the left in square reserves read as Yuanchang 元常 (upper) and Woyun 臥雲 (lower). The reverse is carved with chamfered long sides ending at a slightly extended rectangular foot on each corner. China. Qing dynasty, 19th century. length 21.9 cm / 8 5/8 in Provenance: Private collection, San Francisco. The inscribed poem reads: In the middle of a courtyard stands a plum tree, 中庭一樹梅，寒多葉未開。 with its leaves not yet budded due to the cold. 祇言花是雪，不悟有香來。 上亂 ( 郡 ) 春恆晚，高樓年易催。 I mistook the blossoms for snowflakes, for I did not notice their fragrant scent. 織書偏有意，教逐錦回文。 The spring in the upper quarter always comes late. [Ascending to] the high pavilion one easily feels the elapse of time. [A wife] wove verses in tapestry with deliberate design, which impelled [the husband] to unravel the hidden palindrome.
Some works of art purchased from Nicholas Grindley are now in the following museum collections. Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, California British Museum, London The Burrell Collection, Glasgow The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York Danish Museum of Art and Design, Copenhagen The Gardiner Museum, Toronto Guanfu Museum, Beijing Honolulu Academy of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii Israel Museum, Jerusalem Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California Middlebury College Museum of Art, Vermont Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum fur Lackkunst, Munster Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne Nelson - Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City National Gallery of New Zealand, Wellington Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario The Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio Seattle Art Museum, Washington Victoria & Albert Museum, London Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
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Chinese Scholar's Objects