Sanjiao - Three Teachings Catalogue 2022

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sanjiao three teachings

The Three Teachings - the gold and cinnabar of Daoism, the relics of Buddhist figures, as well as the Confucian virtues of humanity and righteousness - are basically one tradition Chinese Proverb

sanjiao three teachings


art dealers are storytellers!

In 2012 Diana Cawdell, gave us some important advice: we should start publishing serious scholarly catalogues. Nynke and I decided to follow this advice and our first catalogue Kangxi was published in 2013. We feel that a dealer’s catalogue should not only tell the story of each object, but also give our personal perspective on that subject. And so we began to share our knowledge and passion for Chinese objects!

researchers and academics, but it was friend Rose Kerr who encouraged Nynke to start writing herself, which she has been doing since 2015 - a new star was born! She likes to be challenged and loves to study the reference books and searches the internet for the right information on each objects, coming up with exactly the kind of information that I like and want to pass on to the reader.

Besides the written word, the look and feel of the catalogue is of importance, so we look for inspiration everywhere, from fashion to interiors. Luckily our designers Oranje Boven (Theo Meijer and Margreet Borgman) are right next door to us. They are the perfect partner in making our catalogue a reality each time. Another important aspect of making a good publication is the photography, so we look for someone who can really ‘see’ the object and can bring it to life on each of the pages. This year Leon van den Broek, under the guidance of Nynke Martens, has shot amazing images.

Then comes the printing and we all wait anxiously to see the end result. It is a team effort creating each catalogue – so it’s a team celebration when it arrives. We can then finally start circulating the catalogue and we are always happy to hear the reactions from the clients, academics, friends and fellow dealers. Ultimately the objects in the catalogue will find a new home and we can start working on the next one….

The subject of each catalogue is chosen carefully. It should be Chinese of course, academic but also approachable and Vanderven-like. A selection of objects is made and the search for additional pieces commences. Then comes the really hard work, writing the catalogue. At first we used outside

We hope you enjoy this year’s team-effort! Floris van der Ven

Vanderven Oriental Art The Netherlands Tel. +31 (0)73 614 62 51



three teachings in china

nynke van der ven

The Three Teachings, or Three Teachings in Harmony (三敎合一 Sānjiào Héyī), refer to the three main beliefs in China: Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. To this day they co-exist in harmony, often practised simultaneously, even overlapping in certain areas. Together they reflect the long history, mutual influence and even complementary teaching of these belief systems. Each practice has dominated or risen to favour during certain periods of time. Chinese emperors sometimes preferred one of the teachings and the others would temporarily fall out of favour, but re-emerge again at a later date. One of the earliest references to this Trinitarian idea is attributed to Li Shiqian, a 6th century scholar, who wrote that “Buddhism is the sun, Daoism the moon, and Confucianism the five planets.” – meaning they are separate entities but coexist in harmony. It was also likend to the legs of the ancient sacred tripod vessel (ding) – meaning all three are essential supports of the same entity. In Chinse traditional culture, statesmanship, philosophy, and religion are considered as being complementary and interrelated systems – one concept often applying to several of all three beliefs. A person could advocate Confucianism’s strong sense of ethics and social responsibility in his public life, embrace Daoist ideals of quietude and nature in his private life, and aspire to


Buddhist salvation in the afterlife. In effect, all three religions could be practised and patronised sometimes at different stages in one’s life, but also simultaneously. This does not mean they were necessarily always equally influential; there was certainly competition for favour and patronage, with the occasional outbreak of hostility. But, certainly by the Ming Dynasty, there was an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and influence. This fluidity and coexistence is also reflected in the arts, where objects can reflect more than one belief. As the exchanges amongst the beliefs occurred, so did the flow of influences among the visual arts. Objects and significance could therefore be relevant and meaningful to more than one belief system. All three beliefs were certainly vital creative forces for the arts in China, in turn art objects were crucial for visualising and strengthening faith. Although the works in this catalogue have been associated with a specific teaching, they often share imagery, meaning or stylistic features from one of the others. Some artists and workshops were known to create works for more than one belief; no doubt local ideas and fashions also played a role. What is certain is that throughout Chinese history these three beliefs have interacted, adapted to or blended with each other. It has a certain dynamic interplay, which has kept all Three Teachings alive and making them still relevant in Chinese society today.

Sakyamuni, Lao Tzu, and Confucius | National Museum of Asian Art 5

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall Confucius


Confucianism Confucianism is the most ancient of the Chinese belief systems, dating from the Zhou Dynasty (770476 BC), with some of its ideas even dating from a much earlier period. It is named after the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC), who coauthored several philosophical manuscripts (Analects) on social order. Confucianism particularly focuses on social rules and moral values, as well as the concept that through scholarly pursuits and study, a good and virtuous character can be achieved. Filial piety (xiao) including ancestor worship, humaneness (ren), correct etiquette or rituals (li ), as well as the strict following of social roles, are all an integral part of Confucianism. Under imperial rule, the elite arduously followed the edicts of Confucius; taking charge of the moral education of the people and running local government. It was thought that a balanced and harmonious existence could be created, if everyone adhered to their assigned roles in society and performed the correct rituals.

Only a small fraction of Chinese society were fully literate and the elite class was formed by the highly educated scholars (wenren). It was from this group that all government officials were selected, through a series of rigorous imperial civil examinations. These exams required thorough knowledge of the Confucian canon, the ability to write essays on moral issues, current affairs and poems in a variety of formal styles. This entailed that education and accomplishment, became vital for advancement in a government career and local power. The Chinese scholar’s studio and the objects in it, were therefore an important reflection of literati’s erudition, contemplation, governance and ultimately influence.


1 | Z hang Qian An unusually large spinach green jade panel, mounted as a table screen. One side is worked all over in low relief, depicting a river scene with choppy water and a shoreline with trees and rocks. A figure is navigating the river in a shallow boat, which appears to be made from a gnarly tree trunk. The reverse is undecorated and mounted on a closed-back wooden panel, indicating it was meant to be viewed from only one side. The skilled carver of this panel, has created a sense of depth on a flat surface by carving the stone to varying levels of relief, using the way the light reflects on the surface to create depth. Large jade screens as this one, are very rare and were seldom created before the Qianlong period. To achieve the larger size, this screen utilizes multiple slabs of the same jade, the joins barely visibly through clever use of carved decoration. It is mounted in a later wooden frame and stand. The size and quality of the panel, could indicate it may have been created in the Palace workshops in Beijing. China, Qianlong period (1736-1795) H: 32,3 cm | W: 39,4 cm (without Frame) provenance

Private Collection, France With Roger Keverne, London (2007) literature

Lefebvre d’Argencé 1977, p.96-97 pl.XLI Ashton & Grey 1935, p.344 nr.137 Hay 2010, p.251-252 fig.151 Juliano 1981, p.56 Jiajin 1986, nr.74 Keverne 2007, p.118 nr.101 Knight, Li & Bartholomew 2007, p.288 nr.321 London 1935, p.251 nr.2948 Ill. p.265 Paris 2016, p.216-217, nr.201 & 202 Riddel 1979, p.155-156 fig.138 Yang & Capon 2007, p.214 & 215 nr.152


The bearded gentleman depicted in the boat, is the explorer Zhang Qian (张骞). This legendary Han Dynasty traveller was immortalized in a Tang Dynasty poetry, that tells the romanticized version of his epic voyage. It recounts how he navigated his a log raft to the source of the Yellow River, only to have unwittingly made his way to the moon and float amongst the stars of the Milky Way. The actual Zhang Qian, (d.114 BC), was a renowned early Chinese statesman, explorer and chronicler. In 138 BC, Zhang was dispatched by the Han Dynasty Emperor Wudi (141-87 BC), to establish relations with the countries bordering on China. After an epic 13 year journey, he came home and brought the Emperor the first reliable account of the lands to the West of China. These early contacts, were crucial for establishing diplomatic relations, leading to exchanges of envoys between the Central Asian States and the Han court. Zhang’s later missions, opened up the first trade routes between East and West leading to exchanges of products and ideas – effectively the beginning of trade along the Silk Road. These interactions, not only brought about the introduction of a new superior breed of horses and new crops - such as grapes and alfalfa; but also the early forms of Buddhism.


With many turns the Yellow River flows with sands from afar; Coming from the sky’s edge, the wind-blown rolling waves never stay. In my search for the source, I journey straight up the Milky Way, And end up in the homes of the Herd Boy and Weaver Girl Stars. Liu Yuxi (772-842 AD)


Confucian ideals particularly centred around the importance of scholarly pursuits. It was thought that a good and virtuous character, can be achieved through learning and writing. Other appropriate and elegant pursuits for the Chinese literati, could be activities such as making music, contemplating nature or studying ancient objects. Many items in a Chinese scholar’s studio were intended for writing and painting, such as brush pots, water droppers and ink stones. A table screen was also a popular object and could be made from a wide variety of materials. They were principally used for display, but would have also been useful as a wind screen or as a table divider. However, the scholar’s objects were not only functional, but often also conveyed symbolic meaning; perhaps highlighting scholarly virtue, telling a moral story or baring a wish for longevity. The shape or decoration of these items could also form a source of inspiration for the poetry and painting. A pair of very similar screens, are on display in the Eastern Chamber of the Palace of Culture of the Mind in the Forbidden City. A smaller pair of spinach green screens with landscapes with scenes from the Four Pleasures, are also in the collection of the Forbidden City. Several round and rectangular paler jade screens with landscapes, are in the collection of Museé National du Chateau de Fontainebleau Palace (F1478C+1435C & F1490C). The National Palace Museun , Taipei, has a smaller pale green screen depicting a river scene with a boat. A slightly earlier Ming Dynasty jade wine cup in the shape of Zhang Qian on his log raft from the Avery Brundage Collection, is in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (

A very similar scene also appears on a cylindrical jade brush pot from The Summer Palace, Beijing. This Imperial connection is especially interesting since a wine cup in horn, also decorated with Zhang Qian’s Yellow River Journey, is known to have been inscribed with an Imperial Poem of the Qianlong Period. Therefore we might assume, that Chang’s travels and diplomacy held a special significance for The Qianlong Emperor.


2 | S croll Weight This impressive oblong scroll weight, is richly decorated all over with flowers, in a bright famille verte colour palette using green, yellow, aubergine, copper-red and blue enamels. The long side panels, each have four large red and white lotus flowers, with gilt details. The rest of the surface is covered with seasonal flowers such as plum blossoms, chrysanthemums and peonies, all on a light green ground. The top of the weight has a corresponding panel with flowers and a distinct handle, in the form of a gnarly branch surrounded by green twigs with tiny pink blossom flowers. The short sides, have openwork roundels, picked out in yellow, also decorated with flowers, with small blue scrolls in the corners. All the flowers and plants are finely outlined in black enamel. Contrastingly, the underside is white, painted loosely with a large spray of bamboo growing next to a single green rock.

China, Kangxi period (1662 – 1722) circa 1710-20 H: 11.1 cm | L: 35.2 cm | D: 8.1 cm provenance

Cradis Collection, Paris, France 2019 literature

Boulay 1995, p.662-663 Cox 1973, p.577 Hobson 1925-1928, vol V, pl.XI, nr.E68 Kerr 1990, p.95 Rinaldi 1993, p.104 Sartel 1881, pl.6 nr.43 Trapnell 1901, pl. LII, nr.228 Wirgin 1974, p.83 pl.41a


Scroll weights such as this one, would have been used to weigh down a paper scroll, to prevent it from rolling up again. To be effective, a weight had to be sufficiently heavy, therefore stone or metal weights are more common than porcelain examples. This was a typical item that could be found in the study of a Chinese scholar- gentleman (wenren), where most objects involved study, painting, writing and contemplation. The space generally centred around a table, with numerous objects for aiding writing and painting all reflecting their erudition. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, has an almost identical scroll weight (acc. nr.37.191.9). A very similar weight is depicted in Du Sartell’s publication from 1881, as well as in the Trapnell and Eumorfopoulos Collection catalogues. Similar richly enamelled objects, but without a handle and narrower in the middle, are referred to as being pillows or headrests. Examples of these can be found in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (acc. No. C.1103-1910) ), Musée Guimet, Paris (nr.G456) and The Taft Museum, Cincinnati.



Weights would have been used to weigh down a paper scroll to prevent it from rolling up again


3 | Ruyi Sceptre This ruyi scepter has a long, gently curved, handle and naturalistically shaped head. It is made of bamboo, with its distinctive sections clearly identifiable on the upper side of the handle. The head is carved in the form of a lingzhi fungus and it is embellished with a long green silk tassel.

China, Jiaqing period (1796-1820) L: 38.2 cm provenance

With Roger Keverne, United Kingdom literature

Brussels 2009, p.53 nr.41 Clunas 1996, p.50 fig.52 Hay 2010, p.375 fig.223 Tsang & Moss 1986, p.272 nr.270 Pei 2004, p.113 Rawski & Rawson 2006, p.366-369 nr.273-282, p.466 nr.282 Shixiang & Weng 1983, p.106 nr.46 Yue 2009, p.67 & p.146 Welch 2008 p.50


A ruyi ( ru 如 yi 意) – which translates as ´according to your wishes´- is a wellknown symbolic ceremonial object in Chinese culture. They generally have a long curved handle and a club-shaped head, often in the form of a lingzhi fungus. Due to their symbolic nature, they were considered very appropriate birthday gifts, particularly for conveying wishes of good luck and longevity. Ruyi were made in many different materials such as gold, lacquer, semiprecious stone or wood; ranging from simple forms to elaborately adorned models with gold and gems. Depending who was holding it, it could signify different things; either a symbol of authority or just an elegant and auspicious plaything. They were also used on a scholar’s desk as a paper weight or luxury ornament. For the Chinese scholar plainer ruyi, made of natural materials - such as wood or bamboo - were particularly desirable. These reflected the scholar’s desire to retreat into nature, away from the distractions and politics of government bureaucracy. The very symbolic lingzhi 灵芝(Glossy Ganoderma), is actually a woody fungus which grows on the trunks or roots of trees in southern China. This mushroom is associated with Daoism, as it is believed to offer eternal life. In China, it has been appreciated for its great medicinal qualities for thousands of years. Because of these powerful associations, the lingzhi became a very popular symbolic motif for longevity. Ruyi sceptres are found in many major collection. Such was their popularity at the Qing court, that the Palace Museum (Beijing) has over 3000 Ruyi in its collection. Bamboo examples in the shape of lingzhi are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (.FE 21-1976) and British Museum, London (2004,0630.2).


4 | Rock Crystal This small rock crystal brush pot is in the shape of a gnarly pine tree trunk with lingzhi mushrooms around its base. It is freely carved in low and high relief. The small water pot, in the form of a folded lotus leaf, is carved in low relief and incised with a two animal faces and scrolls. Such elegant and symbolic objects, would have been intended for use in the Chinese scholar’s studio. Colourless crystal quartz was particularly valued for its transparency, its name Shuijing – literally meaning water essence or crystalized water. As such, it was a symbol for purity, clarity & honour. To the Confucian scholar, crystal was a material likened to ice; not meaning coldness, but rather transparency with nothing to hide. Prized for its natural beauty, this stone also signified solitude, as well as sobriety in behaviour and thought. As a result rock crystal was a popular material for scholar’s studio objects, reflecting the literati’s pure thoughts. 4.1 Brush Pot China, Guangxu period (1875-1908), mid 19th C. H: 10.3 cm | W: 8.2 cm 4.2 Water pot China, Jiaqing period (1796-1820) c. 1800 H: 4.7 cm | W: 4.8 cm provenance

Private Collection, France literature

Bartholomew 2006, p.210 Jenyns & Watson 1981, p.185-220 Lin 2009, p.128 Pei 1997, p.125 fig.122 Rinaldi 1993, p.90-99 Sun 2016 Wilson 2004, p.102 & 103


Rock crystal (水晶), the purest member of the quartz family, is clear and colourless like glass. Due to its hard composition, it has to be shaped by abrasion. Using a treadle drill and basic manual tools, objects were hollowed and carved which took a tremendous amount of skill and patience. The natural shape and colour of the unworked crystal, was often brilliantly utilized by the carvers to further enhance the design. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge ( 0.61 & A1946), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (acc. nr. 02.18.831) and the Aberdeen Archive & Gallery (acc. nr. ABDMSO24914), all have a smaller rock crystal pine tree vase. The Palace Museum, Beijing has a small vase with a pine tree and a monkey.


The Chinese scholar’s studio and the objects in it, were an important reflection of erudition, contemplation, good governance and ultimately power



5 | Scholar’s Desk

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) 5.1 Lotus Brush Washer | H: 5 cm | L: 11 cm Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands 5.2 Peach Water Dropper | H: 6.3 cm | W: 5.9 cm Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands 5.3 Bamboo Brush Pot | H: 9.3 cm | Ø: 4 cm Provenance: Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, Paris (label 17958), 1959 5.4 Green & 5.5 Yellow Shoe | H: 3.5 cm | L: 9.5 cm Provenance: Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, Paris (label 22642), 1978 5.6 Mountain Brush Rest | H: 7.7 cm | L: 9.2 cm Provenance: Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, Paris (label 23364), 1989


A group of enamel on biscuit porcelain scholar’s desk objects, all centred around ink and water. The lotus brush washer, has a moulded green and brown glazed seedpod and a yellow glazed cupped leaf. The slender green brush pot, with black details, is in the shape of a bundle of bamboo tied with rope. The aubergine glazed brush rest alludes to a mountain range, each of the three peaks decorated with auspicious symbols in green and yellow. The front is incised with swirling waves and a yellow carp, the reverse depicts a beribboned cash coin between two frolicking lions. A little peach shaped water dropper, glazed in aubergine enamels, has moulded green leaves and small ochre grip. Two brush washers in the form of small white-soled shoes; one is green with a pointy up-turned toe and a single black seam over the front. The other is glazed in yellow, with raised detailing in brown. Both shoes have traces of black staining in the unglazed interiors, indicating they were used for rinsing inky brushes. These charming objects were not merely functional items, but also conversation pieces with symbolic meanings, typically emphasising scholarly virtues and expressing wishes for longevity. Often depicted in Chinese art, the peach is traditionally associated with longevity. Bamboo (zhu) stands for endurance, flexibility and dignity. The lotus and seedpod are both considered very auspicious, the pod representing fruitfulness and plenty, the lotus itself symbolizing purity and resilience, as its flowers emerge unstained from the surrounding muddy waters. The shoe (xie), is a symbol for wealth, as it is similar in shape to an ingot. Mountains were considered mystical and aspirational places, inhabited by gods and spirits. The three peaks also resemble the written character for mountain 山 (shan). When depicted with waves (shoushan Fuhai), it represents the mountain of longevity and a sea of blessings, signifying a wish for long life and good fortune. The design also features a carp leaping upward through roiling waters; a symbol of scholarly perseverance.

Confucianism, widely practiced in China since ancient times, centred on social rules and moral values. It was thought that through scholarly pursuits and study, a good and virtuous character could be achieved. Gentlemen were expected to pass a series of provincial and imperial examinations, thereby allowing him to pursue a career in civil service – in the vast and bureaucratic governmental system. Education and accomplishment, were considered crucial for advancement in government career ultimately gaining influence and wealth. The Chinese scholar’s studio and the objects in it, were therefore an important reflection of erudition, contemplation, good governance and ultimately power.


Ayers 2004, p.100 & 101 Bartholomew 2006, p.223 Sargent 1991, nr.2 Desroches 1993, p.45 Pei 1997, p.2, 29 & fig 109 Pei 2004, p.18,119,132,170 Rinaldi 1993, fig.35, 79, 80 & 88 Scagliola 2012, p.251 & 252


6 | Frog An enamel on biscuit porcelain water pot in the shape of a frog. It is glazed in the sancai tri-colour palette of green, with touches of yellow and aubergine, with black embellishments. The crouching frog, with its broad head raised, has large bulging yellow eyes with large dark brown pupils. In its mouth it holds a lotus stem, the purplish pod peeking out of its mouth and a branch ending in a green leaf curls over its back. The hollow body is green with black patches and has a large hole in its back for water - which would probably have been taken out with a small ladle. The chest is white with just a transparent glaze, the underside is unglazed biscuit.There is some confusion between frogs and toads in Chinese art, as the toad is also regularly represented. Toads have a distinctive bumpy skin and sometimes just three legs, when depicting the money toad. Frogs (qingwa) are associated with rain and water, making them a very fitting subject for a scholar’s water pot. They also represent fertility, as they spawn so many offspring; this is perhaps why in China mothers also refer to their children as frogs wa. This frog holds a lotus pod (lianzi) in its mouth, another fertility symbol. Altogether, this water pot can be interpreted as the wish for many children.


The main tools for study and writing, are known as the ‘Four treasures of the scholars Studio’; they were the writing brush, ink stick, inkstone and paper. These apparently simple items, were in fact what distinguished an educated scholar from a common tradesman. They stood for a notable career in government, thus bringing respect, social status and income for the whole family. These ‘treasures’ actually encompassed all the related paraphernalia for writing and painting, such as water pots, brush rests, paper weights etc. During the Kangxi period, the form and decoration of these scholar’s desk objects, reached a high level of refinement and their selection became a matter of great connoisseurship.

Pei 1997, p.29 Pei 2004 p.183 Sargent 1991, p.28 nr.1 Stamen & Volk 2017, p.100 Welch 2008, p.102

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, has an identical example (C.26-1962). The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, has a smaller green frog water pot ( 38.853). The Jie Rui Tang collection, holds a water pot of a green toad on a rock (nr.0416) and a three-legged money toad (nr.0222).

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) H: 7.3 cm | W: 12 cm provenance

Private Collection, UK



7 | Boy & Lotus Box A porcelain box and cover with a flattened globular form, finely decorated in underglaze cobalt blue. The lid has a central panel depicting a boy standing on a lotus, holding a large leaf in his hands. He is dressed in a short tunic, with bracelets around his wrists and ankles, his head shaved in a traditional way, leaving a few tufts of hair. Surrounding him, is a pattern of scrolling lotus leaves and flowers painted in reverse. Around the panel, on the rounded side of the lid, is a band of swirling waves above a repeating ruyi pattern. The same bands are repeated on the bottom half of the box. The inside of the box is undecorated, with just a transparent glaze. The glazed underside has a plain blue circle and the rim and underside of the foot are left unglazed. These types of boxes are known as seal paste boxes (yin se he) and were used on the scholars desk for storing the red vermillion paste, used for applying seals to official documents.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) H: 4 cm | Ø: 11 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands 2019 With Vanderven & Vanderven 1985 literature

Barrot Wicks 2002, p.8-11, 35 pl.1 Bartholomew 2006, p.63-64 Howard & Ayers 1978, p.462 Sheaf & Kilburn, p.60-61 Rinaldi 1993, p.82-83 Stamen & Volk 2017, nr.82


In Chinese secular belief, the lotus was a symbol of fertility, as the seedpods symbolise a multitude of offspring. The lotus is also a pun for continuous, so a boy with a lotus signified the wish for a long line of male descendants. Children - particularly sons - were an important part of Chinese family life and crucial for the continuation of the family lineage. Male offspring became an essential part of the Confucian notion of filial piety, in which children were obligated to respect their parents in life and to remember them after death. This was done through ritualistic ancestor worship, which included ceremonies honouring forefathers and caring for their graves. By carrying out the prescribed rituals, ancestors were appeased and could provide celestial assistance to the family. Depictions of boys together with the lotus (lian), appears to also have strong Buddhist connotations, as it was believed that souls born into paradise looked like children. The Metropolitan Museum has a comparable seal paste box, with a scene of a boy riding a Qilin. The Porzellansammlung, Dresden also has similar shaped box in underglaze blue (PO2597), decorated with auspicious symbols. The Jie Rui Tang Collection has a box decorated with the ‘Hundred Boys’. The famous Hatcher Cargo shipwreck, which dates from a slightly earlier period (c.1643), had numerous boxes of similar shape to this example. The Metropolitan Museum, New York has a teapot with the same decoration ( 1975.1.1701).


8 | Brush Pots A pair of square brush pots, decorated in underglaze blue, stand on bracketed feet with raised scrolling. Each side has a large oblong panel, surrounded by a raised outline with traces of the original gilding. Each panel is freely decorated with a landscape with rivers, mountains, pagodas, trees and rocks - some including tiny figures and flying birds. The panels are surrounded by a diaper pattern, with four small cartouches, outlined in blue, depicting a variety of plants and flowers. The inside and underside have a transparent glaze, the rim is left unglazed. The brush pot (bitong) is a constant and essential feature on the Chinese scholar’s desk, which is why it was often chosen with great care. They were made of a variety of materials such as wood, bamboo, ivory or jade. Porcelain, however, was the most convenient as it was easily cleaned and came in countless sizes and decorations. Scholars required several kinds of brushes, depending on whether he was writing or painting. They could be stored in two ways – either hanging from a frame or more frequently in a pot. Other items could also be put in the pot, such as useful tools for incense burning or decorative symbolic items such as a beautiful peacock feather or ruyi sceptre. Brush pots could also double as a vase.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) H: 18 cm | W: 10 cm provenance

Private Collection, United Kingdom (2014) With Vanderven Oriental Art (1997) literature

Quette 2006, p.35 nr.60 Pei 1997, p.29, 34-35 fig.34 Rinaldi 1993, p.90


Idyllic landscapes with rivers and figures reposing in nature, frequently feature in Chinese art. Chinese literati (wenren) aspired to an ideal existence - a leisurely life dedicated to the Four Arts: painting, calligraphy, chess and playing the qin. This idealistic view of a reclusive life devoted to the arts, nature and contemplation, was inspired by Confucian traditions and Daoist principles. Some wenren were wealthy landowners of noble birth, but the majority held positions as civil servants. The reality was that, even though their work provided a good income, there was generally little time left for the artistic pursuits which they so idealized. Comparable Kangxi brush pots, from a French private collection, are depicted in the catalogue for the SFECO Paris exhibition in 2006. The Jie Rui Tang Collection (USA), has a much smaller hexagonal brush pot, also with comparable landscapes (nr.0016).


A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live Laozi


Daoism Daoism – or Taoism - is an early philosophy which can be traced back to the 4th century BC. It is named after the Dao (the Way). It advocates simplicity and particularly living in a balanced way in tune with nature. It focusses on the interdependence of all things, which is reflected in its famous round Yin/ Yang symbol, along with a particular preoccupation with achieving immortality. There are a host of Daoist immortal deities which are widely venerated, who were thought to influence all areas of life such as health, happiness, and fortune. Daoism’s main protagonist is the sage Laozi (604531 BC). The earliest mention of Laozi is in the text Zhuangzi (c. 300 BC), named after its author. However, his first historical account is found in the Shiji written by Sima Qian (c. 100 BC). It records that Laozi’s family name was Li and he was an archivist at the Zhou court. After leaving court he travelled West and wrote his famous treatise, the Classic of the Way and its Power (Tao-te-ching). This seminal work introduces the concept of the Dao, intended to serve as a guide for human behaviour and experience. The text has been used for 1,800 years as a sacred and revered scripture. Amongst the Daoist religious orders, the book is the mainstay for meditation, ritual ceremonies, and ordination rites. Daoism appealed to all levels of

ancient Chinese society, but the common people were espe­cially drawn to it. This belief had an almost rebellike status, promoting self-cultivation and auton­ omy, as opposed to constricted elitist rituals of the official (Confucian) state cult. Both these philosophies actively encouraged the search for harmony, but they differed on how to attain it. An important aspect of Daoism is the notion of finding a way to balance the energy (qi) in the world – which applied to humans, nature and the cosmos. Daoist practices were developed for the cultivation of this balance. On a large scale the emperor could perform rituals; on a smaller scale individuals were encouraged to achieve balance in one’s own body or living space. A good balance, lead to prosperity, greater longevity and perhaps ultimately immortality. Well-known practices are for example the marital art Tai Chi (太極拳) and the practice of Feng Shui (風水) in the home. Daoism has led to the creation of a wide range of enchanting art works. These works transport the viewer into the cosmos inhabited by immortals and deities. Also the importance of being in tune with nature and the search for happiness and a long-life.


9|G uandi This magnificent male figure on horseback is executed in enamel on biscuit porcelain and represents Guandi, the Daoist God of War. He is dressed in a full elaborate military armour, embellished with a pattern of green scales, worn over aubergine robes. The tunic is belted at the waist with a white belt, the buckle in the form of a tiger’s head. An aubergine cape covers his shoulders and on his head he wears a green cloth cap, knotted at the front. His smiling face, which is painted gold, is surrounded by long flowing hair and beard. He sits proudly upright, body turned to the left, his right hand placed at the waist. The other arm rests in front of his body and both hands still have remnants of gold paint. His tall boots are black, the heels firmly backed into stirrups. The horse is enamelled in aubergine, with a saddle cloth is in a contrasting green. Its head is tilted up towards the left and one front leg lifted, as if walking forwards; the swishing black tail, hollow and unglazed on the back, is removable. The reins and trappings are white, the bells around its chest also appear to have been gilded at one stage.

China, mid-Kangxi period (1662-1722) H: 34,5 cm | L: 29 cm provenance

Royal Middle Eastern Collection, 2021 With Vanderven Oriental Art, 2015 Private Collection, UK, 2014 G.L. Bevan Collection, UK, until 1923 Published: Gorer & Blacker, 1911 Vanderven Oriental Art, 2015


Guandi, known in Chinese folklore as one of the Five Tiger Generals, was a general during the early Han Dynasty. He was the youngest of three sworn brother warriors, who raised an army to supress rebellion. Their deeds are graphically recorded in the Annals of the Three Kingdoms (220-65AD). In the Ming Dynasty, their heroic story was reworked into a popular novel - Romance of the Three Kingdoms – gaining him further celebrity. Marshall Guandi was actually taken prisoner and executed in 220 BC, but after his death it was thought he still used his great powers for the good of the nation, as defender of the country and protector of the Daoist faith. He was posthumously elevated to the rank of Duke, then Prince in the 12th century. In 1594, during the Ming Dynasty, he was awarded the title of Emperor or God. Now named God of War, Guandi became patron of the military and evolved into a potent symbol of justice, honesty and integrity, becoming one of China’s most popular divinities. He is also regarded as the deity of all money making activities, because as peace bringer he ensures economic prosperity. During the Qing Dynasty most towns had a specific temple honouring him, many of them still exist today and remain popular pilgrimage destinations.


This particular figure of Guandi is depicted in the Gorer & Blacker Chinese Porcelain and Hard Stones; Volume II. In the accompanying text it states that it belongs to the collection of G.L. Bevan. Gerard Lee Bevan, who was as an insurer and stockbroker in London, appears to have been a bit of a rogue as he was convicted for fraud and sentenced to prison in 1922. When released, he fled to Havanna with his mistress, where he ran a distillery. During his career he had built up a significant art collection, which included important Chinese porcelain. In total ten pieces from his porcelain collection are depicted in Gorer & Blacker’s book. Bevan’s collection was auctioned off due to bankruptcy in 1923. Figures such as these are rare and very few are known. A comparable example, with a different coloured horse, is depicted in the Richard Bennet Collection catalogue, as well as in Gorer & Blacker’s aforementioned book. Another representation of Guandi, but in the tri-colour Egg & Spinach palette, is in the Anthony de Rothschild collection. Guandi is depicted in many other art forms and the Palace Museum, Beijing has a hanging scroll (1426) which depicts this popular warrior.


Bondy 1923, p.188 Clunas & Harrison-Hall 2014, p.27 fig.5 Davids & Jellinek 2011, p.72 Gorer 1911, nr.224 Gorer & Blacker 1911, pl.86 & 92 Krahl 1996, p.204 nr.27 Little 2000, p.258 nr.83 Vanderven 2015, p.72-75 Welch 2008, p.161 Williams 1976, p.211



10 | Yanluo Wang This large enamel on biscuit porcelain figure, is seated with his feet apart, his cupped hands holding a peach. He is wearing long flowing yellow robes and a yellow cap with the Chinese character for king (wang 王). He has a striking blue lined face with a snarling wide mouth, baring pointed teeth. His long beard, flows down in sections onto his shoulder and neck. His robe is decorated with an incised design of green dragons and tri-coloured clouds on a yellow ground. Flowing brown ribbons, knotted with yellow circular pendants, hang down the front of his robes and sleeves. His brown shoes peep out from under his long robes. This figure represents one the Daoist Kings of Hell Yanluo Wang (閻羅王), also known as King Yama. He is a judge of the Underworld, commanding an army of animal headed demons. His origins lie in Buddhism, where he is known as Yama Raja - a protector of Buddhist law (Dharmapala) and underworld judge. He determines the fate of souls, deciding on their rebirth based on their good or bad karmic deeds in life. With the transmission of Indian Buddhism across East Asia, the concept of the Yama judge also entered China.

China, Kangxi period, late 17th century H: 60 cm | W: 31.0 cm | D: 24.5 cm provenance

Private Collection, Argentina literature

Krahl 1996, vol II, p.360 nr.201 Ledderose 2000, p.163-85 p.176 fig.7.2 (on the Courts of Hell) Toronto 1992, p.194-195 Harrison-Hall 2001, p.541-542 nr.19:3 Huo 2015, nr.18


He re-emerges in popular Chinese Daoist culture, as Yanluo, the Fifth King of the Ten Courts Hell. These ten courts were each presided over by a Judge of Hell (Yamas of the Ten Courts 十殿閻王), who ruled over this transitory place - each judging a different category of misdemeanours. In this purgatory, souls were held accountable for their actions in life and could undergo gruesome punishments. Those that had led exemplary lives, could obtain early release and entry into heaven. But the majority had to go before all ten Magistrates, to atone for their misdeeds in life. It was assumed very few could bypass these courts of hell, so earthly funerary rituals were designed to get the deceased through the ten Courts of Hell as quickly as possible. After the soul had passed through each court, receiving the necessary castigations, they would be reincarnated accordingly –but only after taking a potion to forget their previous life. However bad someone had been, this purgatory was not eternal, all souls eventually being reincarnated. This is very similar to the Buddhist idea of the unending cycle of life, death, and rebirth (samsãra) and the notion of cosmic continuity.



In Chinese imagery, the Hell’s Judges are usually depicted as government officials, often seated on thrones with an severe bearing. Each magistrate ruled over their particular hells with his own staff, who read the recorded misdeeds and aided in the execution of the various punishments. Each of the hells with their corresponding penances, are regularly depicted in Chinese art. Particularly paintings include graphic representations of the harshest, most gruesome punishments allotted to sinners. These portrayals serving as a reminder of what the punishment for their misdeeds would be in their after-life. The eighth century Buddhist poet, Hanshan, warned the living to lead virtuous lives so they could avoid being punished by Yan Wang: I urge you, put an end to your comings and goings; Never vex him, old Yan Wang. Lose your footing, and you’ll fall into the three evil paths Your bones will be ground into powder, having been pounded one thousand times! For a long time you’ll be a person in Hell Forever cut off from the ways of this life. Yanluo’s fifth court, which particularly deals with matters of money, is assisted by his fearsome guardians Bullhead and Horseface. Despite Yanluo having roots in Buddhist tradition, the clouds on his robes and the longevity peach, indicate this figure is now firmly part of the Daoist belief system. This fluidity in representation is typical of the way the Chinese approach spiritualty and religion easily absorbing ideas from one belief into another.

The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, has a comparable large porcelain seated God of Hell, with a coloured face ( A large Ming Dynasty tilework standing figure, also thought to represent this Judge of Hell, is in The British Museum, London ( OA.1917.11.6.1). Another, but seated, figure is in Asian Art Museum, Cologne ( F78,1 OS). The Royal Ontario Museum also has a large glazed pottery figure of Yanluo (nr: 923.6.3). Scroll paintings depicting Yanluo’s court are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London ( and the Nara Museum, Japan (


11 | Celestial Official

China, Possibly Shaanxi Province, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century H: 78.5 cm | W: 28.8 cm provenance

Private Collection, Belgium 2020 Auctioned Palais de Beaux-Arts, Brussels, February 1954 lot 76 literature

Eng 2014 Harrison-Hall 2001, p.542-543 fig.19:4 Hobson 1925-1928, vol. IV D350 Hsiang-Ling Hsu 2017, p.70-101 fig.3.7 Huo 2015, nr.18 Krahl 1991, nr.3 & p.47-61 Ledderose 2000, p.163-85, p.176 fig.7.2 Leidy 2010, p.182 fig.A554 Toronto 1992, p.194 Wong & Pierson 2021, p.298 nr.127


A large lead-glazed pottery (liuli yao) figure of an official. This distinguished standing figure, is dressed in layered tri-coloured robes and beribboned belt. He wears a formal headdress, secured with a pin and tied with ribbons under the chin. The turned up toes of his lotus shoes, peak out from under the hem and he holds a folded book with both his hands. He has a serene expression and a stately demeanour, the elongated earlobes indicating he is a celestial figure. The robes and hat are glazed in a glossy Sancai palette of green, aubergine and yellow. His hands neck and face are left unglazed, with some glazing from the headdress running down. He stands on a square base, which is partially glazed. Large figures, such as this one, would have been moulded in sections and assembled horizontally; then hand finished and glazed, before being fired at a low temperature. These type of wares were typically ordered by wealthy Chinese patrons for a place of worship and there is no evidence that they were made for export. Though it is unsure who this figure actually represents, similar figures are associated with the judges of the Courts of Hell – in which Daoists, as well as Buddhists, believed. These were the courts a soul went through after death, a place of judgement and administrative centre of the underworld. It was here that the deceased’s actions during his lifetime - good and bad - were weighed and penalized accordingly. They were presided over by ten enthroned judges, each assisted by standing scholarly officials; lawyers who had collated all the deeds of a souls lifetime as evidence for the court. This figure appears to be holding the book recording the evidence of a soul’s behaviour.



These type of monumental tilework figures, where generally made for Buddhist and Daoist temples. During the Ming period they became increasingly popular, as this was a faster and more economical and way of producing large scale figures, rather than in bronze or stone. The manufacturers, where doubtless the same craftsmen who produced the colourful glazed architectural tilework. At the time, great advances were being made in glazed pottery manufacture; particularly in Shaanxi province, where innovations were made in the design and complexity of the figures produced. It is thought that specialist kilns for larger figures, were set up alongside those for firing tiles and other architectural ceramics. The British Museum, London has several large glazed standing figures (OA 1938.45-24.115, 1917.11-6.1). The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne (F78,1OS) has a comparable seated figure. The Burrell Collection, Glasgow also has various large figures from the same period.


This figure appears to be holding the book recording the evidence of a soul’s behaviour



12 | Lan Caihe This biscuit porcelain figure of Daoist Immortal Lan Caihe, is glazed in purple and turquoise enamels - the head, hands and legs left unglazed. The tilted head, has a friendly expression with a faint smile; the elongated earlobes indicating that we are looking at a divine figure. The hair, which coiled into two topknots, still has traces of black colouring. He is dressed in a flowing turquoise robe tied at the waist, the wide sleeves edged in purple. The short purple cape, which covers the shoulders, is knotted at the neck. The robe has a flared skirt, which falls loosely over white trousers, his bare feet peeping out from underneath. In his right hand he holds a long-handled purple flower basket. The figure stands on a square purple plinth with turquoise edges, the underside left unglazed with a small central hole. In black ink there are two Chinese characters 宋珮 (Song Pei) a name of perhaps the owner or patron.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) Height: 32 cm

Lan Caihe, is one of the Eight Daoist Immortals (Baxian), particularly known from a 13th century play telling the tale of his attainment of immortality. He represents ambiguity and paradox, either depicted as a youthful male, female or even androgynous figure. He can often be recognised by the basket of flowers or fruit he carries; sometimes also depicted with an instrument such as a flute or clappers. This happy-go-lucky figure was said to have lived a vagabond life, wandering around in a ragged blue robe, sometimes missing a shoe. Lan Caihe particularly loved acting and singing, giving all his earnings to the poor. He is the bringer of beauty and happiness, as well as the embodiment of innocence, making him a very fitting patron of florists and gardeners.


Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, no.22203, acquired in 1976 literature

Krahl 1996, p.182-183 nr.101 Little 2000, nr.118 Watt 2010, p.140-141 fig.170 Welch 2008, p.174-181


The Anthony de Rothschild collection has a very similar turquoise glazed figure, from the Ming Dynasty. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, also has a glazed pottery figure of Lan Caihe ( 28-1883). A Blanc de Chine figure of Lan Caihe is in the Musée Guimet, Paris (G5440).


13 | Li Tieguai A large standing figure of the Daoist Immortal Li Tieguai, decorated in Famille Rose and Famille Noire enamels. He is wearing an open black robe, with apple-green side panels, decorated with contrasting colourful dragons and clouds. His pink trousers have a contrasting yellow border, bare feet showing. The right foot is placed on his yellow crutch and in his left hand he holds small yellow gourd. His elderly upper body and head, are covered in a transparent glaze, except for a thin yellow headband over his cloth cap. He has a friendly countenance with bushy beard and eyebrows; his elongated earlobes and swirling clouds on his robe, divulge he is a deity. Li Tieguai (or Iron crutch Li), can be easily identified by his distinctively ragged appearance, leaning on a crutch and holding a gourd (hulu), containing the elixir of immortality. His legend tells that the handsome young Li, went into a trance so his spirit could visit Laozi in the land of the immortals (penglai). His servant was instructed to keep vigil over the body for seven days. On being summoned to his sick mother on day six, assuming his master would not return, the servant cremated the body. When master Li’s soul returned on the seventh day, he found his own body gone, so entered the body of a nearby lame beggar. To help him in his misfortune, Laozi gifted him a gold headband and an iron crutch. Li is still a Chinese folk hero and the exemplification of passion and mercy, always helping the sick and unfortunate. China, Early Qianlong period (1736-1795), circa 1740 H: 31.2 cm provenance

Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, inventory no. 15935, acquired in 1953 literature

Fuchs & Howard 2005, p.182-3 nr.117 Goidsenhoven 1936, pl.97 Little 2000, p.331 nr.125 Pei 200, p.69


Figures of Immortals have been known to have been exported to the West from the mid-18th century, but their religious context would have been entirely lost on arrival, as these deities would have been unfamiliar to their new owners. The Asian Art Museum, San Francisco has a Blanc de Chine version of Li Tieguai (B60P25) and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, has a smaller one in similar colours ( FE.27B-1978). The Hodroff Collection at Winterthur, has a later complete set of Immortals (103.2775.112.1-9).

The Eight Immortals (Baixian), are a group of popular Daoist deities comprising seven male and one female figure, distinguishable by their appearance and emblematic objects they carry. They all have in common that they were once humans, who underwent spiritual and physical transformations to become immortal. Serving as role models for humanity, they now use their acquired magic powers to mediate with the gods. Between them they reflect a broad spectrum of Chinese society - young and old, rich and poor, civil and military, men and women. In the tales of their lives, they face challenges all people can relate to - which is probably what made them so incredibly popular.


14 | Peach Cadogan This ewer is moulded in the shape of a peach. The pointed tip and the characteristic ridge down one side, typify this ancient Chinese fruit. The handle, spout and high foot, are in the shape of gnarly branches with leaves. It is covered in a turquoise glaze over a biscuit fired body, the underside and foot rim edge, are left unglazed. The bottom is pierced in the middle with a large opening. This curious type of ewer first originated in China, where it is known as a dao guan hu - upside down filling wine pot. Having no cover, it is filled upside down through the hole in the base. This leads to a long tube up into the ewer, the liquid overflows into the body, preventing a backflow. When the pot is righted, it can be poured through the spout. Standing upright, the ewer appears to have no way to be filled, making it an intriguing curiosity. This type of novelty lidless ewer, is said to be named after William, 1st Earl of Cadogan (1675-1726). He and his wife brought an example to Britain, where they used it as an entertainment, mystifying their guests as it had no apparent means to fill it.

China, 18th century H: 17.1 cm | W: 22.5 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands

The Peach (taozi), is regarded as a highly symbolic and auspicious symbol in China. Peaches are associated with longevity and feature in many Daoist stories, as immortality is one of their main concerns. According to legend, the peaches of eternal life grew on trees which only blossomed once every 3,000 years, requiring a further 3,000 for the fruit to ripen. These magical trees were said to grow in the gardens of the Goddess Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu).


Ayers 1999, p.179 no.115 (A220) Ayers 2004, p.161 nr.199 Krahl 1996, p.446 nr.259 Medley 1979, p.3 pl.1 Pinto de Matos 1996, p.233 nr.133 Sheaf & Kilburn, p.64 pl.91 Valenstein 1989, p.216 Welch 2008, p.55


The Anthony de Rothschild collection has a similar turquoise ewer, as does the Lady Lever Collection (Port Sunlight). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York also has a similar ewer (acc. nr.1975.1.1719) in Egg & Spinach glazes. Seven underglaze blue-and-white peach-shaped ewers were among the Hatcher Junk cargo.


15 | Fruit Trees A pair of large painted enamel quatrefoil jardinières, with hardstone fruit trees. They are both set in landscapes with miniature figures, rocks, smaller plants and flowers. Each container is finely painted with scrolling lotuses and flowers in light blue on a cobalt ground, with a gilt edge medallion picked out on each side. The foot and upper edge also have elegant gilt diaper borders. Each tree has a painted and gilt plaster trunk, the wire branches decorated with soapstone, jade and jadeite leaves and fruits. One tree has peaches and large pomegranates set with green or red seeds. The other tree has just peaches. Such charming miniature hardstone trees were not only enjoyed by the Qing Court and Chinese literati class, but were also particularly popular in Europe in the 18th and 19th century.

China, enamel jardinières 18th century, trees 19th century H: 53.5 cm provenance

With Roger Keverne, United Kingdom literature

Beijing 2004, p.34-52 Beurdeley 1966, p.167 Boda 1987, nr.58-61 Hay 2010, p.316-318 fig.181 & 182 Rawski & Rawson 2006, p.360 fig.72 Rawson 2000, pp.133-189 Setterwall 1974, p.189, p.309 nr.FE198 Stein 1990 Weng & Boda 1982, p.303 fig.216 & 217 Yi 1985, pl.78.


Potted landscapes, real or fantasy, were highly regarded by the scholarly elites of late Imperial China. Deemed to function as equivalents to their real counterpart, they provided the literati class with a perfect escape from the world of mundane affairs. The purpose was not just to re-create nature in a pot, but to actually capture its essence. Daoists regard the universe as having a balanced cosmic energy - yin and yang. In recreating nature, this balance was made visual. All aspects of the composition were thought through carefully, including the type of container, the placement and species of the tree, its size, shape and colour. The other details such as the rocks, were also chosen carefully to complete the arrangement. In Daoism, being at one with environment also played an important role, which is reflected in the desire to surround themselves with nature. A number of miniature gardens made with semi-precious stones are in the Palace Museum, Beijing. The Asian Civilisations Museum has two potted landscapes with vines ( as does The British Museum, London (1991,0622.1.a-b). The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm Castle in Sweden, has marble containers with Ivory flowers (HGK 174, 173, 1777:12) and the National Trust collection has several such tree containers, including those at Snowshill Manor (NT1339574) & Hardwick Hall (NT 1129825).


In China the art of creating miniature landscapes in a container is known as ‘penjing’ - the word ‘Pen’ means container or pot and the word ‘jing’ means scenery. Originally creating such pieces was practiced by the elite of ancient China, where miniatures trees were considered a luxury and given as gifts. Around 1100 AD Buddhist monks took this conacept to Japan, where it went on to be known as Bonsai. Hardstone versions of these miniature landscapes were popularized in the 18th century, when they were made for the viewing pleasure of the Qing court elite. Due to their multimedia nature, their production required the mastery of various artisans. They would have been made in areas such as Suzhou, Yangzhou and Guangzhou where the best material and craftsmen were able to produce the highest quality pieces.



16 | Cranes A pair of Blanc de Chine porcelain joss stick holders, in the form of cranes leaning against tree trunks. The cranes, with long slender legs and elegant neck, point their beaks upwards. A small spray of prunus blossom sprouts from the bottom of the trunks and a small lotus bud grows from the top. Auspicious lingzhi bracket-fungus grows on the side of the trees. They stand on moulded rockery bases, the underside hollow and unglazed. In China, the crane (he) is a potent symbol of longevity and emblem of wisdom. It was thought that cranes could live for more than 1000 years, its white feathers standing for old age, which is why it particularly associated with long life. Its elegant bearing and ability to stand still, make it look like its deep contemplation – which also makes it appear very wise. In China, the magical fairy crane (xian he), features in many Daoist myths. It is the mount of choice for the immortals and the fairy Queen of the West, when travelling between heaven and earth. When depicted together with the lingzhi immortality fungus, the combination can be read as a wish for long life: ‘may the crane and fungus extend your years’. With a lotus, it has an additional wish for continual promotion – altogether reading ‘may you have a long and successful life’. China, Dehua, Fujian Province, mid-17th Century H: 18.5 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands literature

Ayers 2002, p.102 nr.53 Ayers 2016, p.62 nr.77 Bartholomew 2006, p.107-108 Cohen & Motley 2008, p.247 Donnelly 1969, p.123, pl.112 a & b Pei 2004, p.52 Sjostrand 2005, p.248 nr.4931


The Royal Collection Trust, UK has a comparable crane (RCIN58857a-b), except the trunk also has a small lid. A similar piece, listed as a candlestick, is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London ( The Ringling Museum, Florida, holds an identical example from the Koger Collection (SN11122.175). An example with a very similar rockery base, was salvaged from a Wanli period wreck.


If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart Buddha


Buddhism Buddhism is based on the teachings of Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), the main ideologies focus on compassion, karma, rebirth, and impermanence. It is thought, life’s suffering can eventualy be overcome by attaining enlightenment. Ultimately Nirvana, a state of perfect happiness, can be obtained by breaking away from material attachments and purifying the mind. Buddhism was first introduced into China from north-eastern India, through Nepal and Tibet, around 100 AD, as a direct result of Han Dynasty expansion and the establishment of the Silk Road. These new trade routes not only facilitated exchange in goods, but also created an extensive religious and cultural interface along the route. During the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia, it divided into two main branches: Mahayana and Hinayana. The Mahayana, which is practised in China, particularly focussed on universal enlightenment and the salvation of mankind with assistance of Bodhisattvas.

even comparable ideas, allowing this new religion to be easily adopted into Chinese culture. Daoism particularly focussed on personal freedom and an intense harmony with nature. With Buddhism, there was a new additional notion, which promised eternal bliss and salvation after death. As complementary beliefs, they could also be easily be practised alongside one another. Consequently, a new Sinicized form of Buddhism emerged, incorporating new as well as established ideas, which were duly absorbed into existing religious and burial practice. With the gradual increase of knowledge and familiarity with the Buddhist doctrines, its iconography was progressively integrated into the Chinese visual arts and culture. Buddhist temples, monasteries and elaborate cave temple complexes with sculpture and painting, were established in great numbers and gradually spread throughout China.

On reaching China, Buddhism encountered the two indigenous ancient philosophies; Confucianism and Daoism. There was certainly an affinity with Daoism,


17 | Buddha Akshobhya A Sino-Tibetan gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Akshobhya (阿芻婆), seated in a lotus position (vajrasana), on a double-lotus pedestal. He wears a dhoti pleated at the waist, incised with a geometric trim, falling loosely over one shoulder and the knees. A cloud collar (yunjian) covers the shoulders and chest. The face is framed by an impressive foliate tiara, held in place by a band at the back of the head, the ribbons falling on to the shoulders, the ends flying up. The face, with an urna on the forehead, has a benevolent expression, the eyes lowered in a serene contemplation. The hair is in tight curls with a very high crown – usnisha – topped with a round jewel. Unusual is the sumptuous jewellery, including long earrings and pendant chains, draped over the chest and shoulders. This Buddha sits with his left hand in his lap holding a kalasha vase and the right hand in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra). Only Akshobhya, (one of the future Buddhas) and Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha), are depicted in this pose. Buddha Akshobhya (阿閦如来), whose name translates to ‘immovable’ or ‘unshakeable’, is one of the five transcendent Buddha’s, each reigning over one of the five directions. Akshobhya is the Buddha who resides in the east, as Lord of the Eastern Pure land Abhirati. Images of Buddha, were intended to help believers longing to ‘see the Buddha’ (Jian Fo), facilitating them to reach their ultimate goal of salvation. These representations were thought to be vessels in which deities were actually present; visible symbols, such as posture and hand mudras, revealing that particular Buddha’s message.

China, 18th century H: 17.1 cm | W: 12.4 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands

In the 18th century, there was a renewed flourishing of Buddhism in China. The new Manchu Qing Emperors actively supported Tibetan Buddhism, which had geopolitical as well as personal benefits. Particularly Kangxi and Qianlong were actively engaged with Buddhism, personally writing thousands of copies of the Heart Sutra and aiding the construction of monasteries and shrines in Beijing. In the Forbidden City, there was even a special area devoted to Tibetan Buddhism – The Hall of Central Righteousness – where the production of religious artefacts also took place.


Amsterdam 2018, p54 & 99 Rawski & Rawson 2006, p.131 nr 41 Watson 2000, p.124 nr.189


The Honolulu Museum of Art has a similar figure ( 10888.1). Compare also a seated figure of Amitãyus Buddha from the Tzs Shan Museum, Hong Kong (Acc. nr. 2017.41).


18 | Stele A limestone votiv stele, depicting Sakyamuni Buddha standing on a plinth. He is flanked on his left by a smaller attendant bodhisattva. Buddha wears simple flowing gowns - in the typical Northern Qi style – and stands in front of an incised nimbus. He has a serene expression with eyes downcast and his hair tightly curled with a high ushnisha and surrounded by a halo of lotus petals in relief . The smaller bodhisattva, has more elaborate draping on the robes tied with two knots, covered with long stings of beads. He is standing on a lotus flower which is issuing from the mouth of a writhing stylised dragon. He wears a crown and also has an aureole of lotus flowers. The lotus is a sacred flower for Buddhists as it represents purity and enlightenment. The reverse of the stele is undecorated, indicating it was not meant to be viewed from the back. The pointed base of the stele, could indicate it once slotted into a large scene, as was also typical of the bronze votive figures of the same period. From inscriptions on similar stele, we know these sculptures were commissioned by devoted patrons and donated to temples for the accumulation of merit and good karma. China, Northern Qi period (549-577) H: 29 cm provenance

J. J. Studzinski Collection, London 2019 With B. Janssens London 2006 literature

Cologne 2009, p.118-123 nr.23 & fig.23 Leidy 2010, p.13 Nikkel 2002, nr.5 & 8 Paludan 2006, p.234 fig.39 Lee 1997, p.155 nr.149 Taipei 1997, p.92-93 no.21 Watson 1995, p.144 no.235


Shakyamuni refers to the historical Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion, who lived and taught in India in the 6th century BC. Born as the crown prince of Shakya of a Nepalese kingdom, the young Siddhartha Gautama was groomed to be its ruler. However, when he was about 29, he was grasped by the deep distress people experienced in life. He choose to give up his pampered life, to find the causes human suffering and how to overcome it. He searched for answers in asceticism and deep meditation under the famous Bodhi tree, finally attaining enlightenment. He became the ‘one who woke up’ (Buddha), spending the rest of his life teaching the Dharma (Buddhist lore) and building a following. An extremely large stele with a very similar subject from the Longxing Temple excavation, also has dragons issuing lotus. Similar stele are in Aurora Foundation Collection, Taiwan. A slightly earlier piece, with the same subject matter, is in the Musee Guimet, Paris ( EO 2076).


19 | Standing Buddha A stone figure of Buddha standing upright, legs next to each other. He wears a gossamer thin mantle, with a high round neck, which clings to the body as if they were wet. The thin cloth clearly reveals the form underneath, the softly bulging belly visible. The left hand is missing, but the position of the arm indicates the hand would have been raised. The right hand hangs down, gently lifting the outer robes (uttarasanga). The hem of the undergarment (antarvastra), is softly pleated, as are the folds hanging from the arms. Rootmarks and encrustation due to burial, now cover the figure. But traces of pigment and gilding indicate this figure would have been richly decorated, perhaps with a colourful strapwork pattern. The flowing lines of this figure are characteristic of sculpture from this period, as is the very realistic treatment of garments. The exact context of this sculpture has now been lost, because we can no longer see the expression or the hand gestures (mudras). The back of the sculpture is fairly flat except for some banded detailing on the robes.

China, Northern Qi period (549-577) H: 83 cm | W: 28 cm provenance

Private Collection, Belgium 2019 With Zen Gallery, Belgium 1995 literature

Hung & Tsiang 2005, p.62-78 fig.2.7 & 2.12 New York 2016, p.101-116 Nikkel 2002, nr.17, 22, 25 Paludan 2006, p.238 fig.4 Veen 2017, p.69-74 nr.1 & 3


With the rise of the Northern Qi Dynasty, whose rulers where devout Buddhists, came a new style of sculpture which much less Sinicized than before. This new Buddhist imagery, was greatly influenced by Indian Gupta period sculpture, clearly reflected in the transparent clothing and fuller facial features. Figures from this period, sometimes even appeared almost entirely foreign. A subject of much debate amongst rulers, was whether it was preferred that Buddha’s image should emphasise or rather blur his foreign origins, to gain more acceptance amongst the people.


After a struggle to harmonize the three religions in China, Emperor Wu of the Northern states, decided that Confucianism should take the lead in the country. In 574 AD, he officially banned Buddhism, leading to a large scale dissolution of the monasteries and destruction of religious artefacts. This rise and fall of Buddhism would continue throughout Chinese history. During an important excavation in 1996, fragments of 400 Buddhist sculptures were discovered at the former Longxing Temple site in Qingzhou, including a large group from the Northern Qi period. The great variety of styles found illustrates the rapidity and extent of the change in styles during this period of great political instability in China. Qingzhou Museum, Shandong has several comparable figures. A complete standing Buddha published in the Return of Buddha gives a good indication of the style and decoration of this figure.



20 | Temple Bell A monumental iron Buddhist temple bell, with a detailed raised inscription arranged in vertical cartouches. The domed top, has a stylized double edged lotus leaf pattern in low relief, with three large holes for the correct pitch and volume. The bell slopes gently to a flared broad rim, which has raised linear geometric panels interspersed with four rosettes, marking the spot where the bell could be struck. The sturdy handle comprises three loops, joined at the top with a finial, decorated on the sides with animal masks. The handle was used to suspend the bell from a wooden pole. It does not have a clapper and would have been rung by striking it by swinging a pole or using a wooden mallet. The ringing of the bell was done to indicate the devotion of the worshippers, as well as rouse the attention of the gods. Due to the detailed inscription on the side of the bell we know the date it was made (1540), the donors who ordered it (Liu clan), as well as the foundry (Zengs Ironsmiths). The Chinese had the technological ability to produce cast-iron from the Han Dynasty (200 BC) onwards and were capable of producing complex shapes and decorations. As opposed to other irons, the white cast-iron used, has excellent acoustical qualities. The Chinese ironsmiths were able to accomplish great sonorous quality in the bells, attesting to their great technical skills. They could also produce the detailed inscriptions and decoration in a single casting. The individual characters and patterns would be stamped into the mould before casting, creating raised as opposed to engraved décor. China, Jiajing period (1522-1566), dated 1540 H: 110 cm | Ø: 78 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands literature

Beijing 2000, nr.214 & 215 Needham & Wagner 2008 Paris 2000, p.152-155, nr.90 Rawson 2007, p.37 pl.15 Rostoker, Bronson & Dvorak 1984, pp.750-767


According to the teachings of the Buddhist faith, merit (punya) is accumulated through giving, virtue and meditation. Merits accumulated during a lifetime, can attract good circumstances in that life as well as helping the following reincarnations. Donations to temples and monasteries were certainly considered important for gaining such merits, as well as furthering spiritual growth to enlightenment in general.


21 | Lokapala A pottery tomb guardian known as a Lokapala (Tian Wang or Heavenly King), modelled in the exuberant high-tang style. He is dressed in full body armour, elaborately ornamented with dragon-mouth sleeves and fluttering ribbons; the floral pattern on the cuirass reminiscent of textiles from the same period. On his head he wears an ornate cap with a high-tailed bird. He has exaggerated facial features, with flaring nostrils, bared teeth, big round eyes and beard painted in black pigments. He stands on a plinth, holding down an ox with his feet. The extant bright coloured pigments and gilding, indicate how brightly coloured he would have once been. Inspired by Buddhist iconography, these types of guardians, were placed near the entrance of the burial chamber to protect the deceased and his treasures.

China, Tang Dynasty (618-907), early 8th century. H: 87 cm | W: 34 cm provenance

Private Collection, Chicago USA TL Tested by Oxford literature

Bower 2002, p.139 Cao Yin 2016, nr. 89 & 90, p.147 Jacobson 2013, p.248 Juliano 1988, nr.60 & appendix 60 Juliano 2012, p.79 fig.58 Shangraw 1993, nr.113


With the entry of Buddhism into China, a new pantheon of Indian deities and imagery emerged. This included images of Lokapãla - the Buddhist guardian gods of the four cardinal directions. When these representations arrived in China, they were easily amalgamated with the very similar Daoist Heavenly Kings (Tian Wang 天王), the Chinese mythological guardians of the four directions. Besides their role of protectors of the Buddhist faith, Lokapala figures now also found a place as ferocious looking tomb guardians, protecting the occupier. These guardians often appear in pairs and are also grouped with two other protective creatures known as earth spirits (Zhenmushou). Comparable figures, can be found in museum collections, such as The Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (B62S60) and Museum Fur Östasiatische Kunst, Cologne (F 10,48). A similar figure was excavated near Xian (Shaanxi Province) from the tomb of Wu Shouzhong (748 AD). A pair excavated from the Tomb of Li Zhen, are now in the Zhoaling Museum, Shanxi. This type of figure is also found in Buddhist temple complexes, such as the Dunhuang caves.


22 | Buddhist Lion A large enamel on biscuit figure of a Buddhist lion, seated and looking forward. It is thickly potted and decorated all over, with glossy turquoise enamels. The open, almost smiling, mouth reveals a set of sharp teeth and tongue. The broad nose separates the bulging eyes with black upward looking pupils. Corkscrew curls surround the brow, beard and legs. The big paws each have four toes; incised flames covering the upper part of the front legs and chest, indicating this is a heavenly creature. The hair on the legs, paws, chest, mane and beard is moulded and incised. It stands on a later gilt bronze foot.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722), with later mounts H: 27 cm provenance

Private Collection, France literature

Kerr 2015, p.74 nr.69 Pinto de Matos 2011, p.342 nr.155 Sargent 1991, p.74 nr.28 Scagliola 2012, p.262 nr.316 Welch 2008, p.135-6 Williams 1976, p.164


Early images of lions, which came to China via the Silk Road, represented the protection of the Buddhist faith. Legend tells, that when Buddha entered a temple, he instructed his two accompanying lions to wait outside, which they did dutifully. This is said to be the reason that lions are now often found at the gates of Buddhist temples and entrances of sacred halls. These fierce and magnificent animals, were also highly regarded as symbols of strength, courage and wisdom, appearing in many art forms. The Chinese character for lion also plays a role in its significance, as Shi is a homophone for teacher or master, which is why they are also associated with wisdom. From the Ming Dynasty onwards, lion figures (Shizi) gradually resembled more whimsical dog-like figures – sometimes referred to as Fo Dogs. The Hallwyl Collection in Sweden has an identical turquoise glazed lion, as does the Laura Collection in Italy. A pair of the same lions, in different colour glazes, are in the Copeland Collection, held in the Peabody Essex Museum. Another pair, in a slightly differing colour palette are in the RA Collection, Brazil ( 664). The Burrell Collection, Glasgow also has numerous similar Buddhist lions. A similar modeled lion, was sketched by Gabriel Saint-Aubain into the margin of the Gaignat 1769 auction catalogue, next to lot 124.


23 | Guanyin A large Blanc de Chine figure of Guanyin seated on rockwork, holding a child and attended by two acolytes. She has an elegant pose and serene expression, befitting the Goddess of Mercy. She wears loose robes, bare feet showing. Her hair is in a top knot covered by a mantle and crowned with a tiara, which is decorated with a figure of Amitabha Buddha. Her right leg is folded up and the other hanging down, a hand resting on her knee - a pose known as lalitasana. Her right hand is held with her palm up, in the varada mudra – a gesture of charity and fulfillment of wishes. The child on her lap holds a brush and an ink stone, the attributes of wisdom and a symbolic wish for an auspicious future. The two acolytes standing at her feet are Longnu (Jade Maiden), wearing loose robes with a cloud collar holding a large pearl and Shancai (Golder Youth), wearing a mantle over loose trousers, his hands folded in prayer. Two rocky outcrops on either side have a vase of heavenly dew on one and a sutra scroll on the other. On the front of the base, are two dragons writhing amongst waves, with a large lotus flower between them.

China, Dehua, Kangxi period (1662-1722) H: 37.7 cm | W: 15 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands

The highest goal of a Buddhist is to eventually achieve the state of Enlightenment (Nirvana). But those who reach this higher state of Buddhahood, can no longer return to guide the rest of mankind. So within the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, the concept of the bodhisattva was developed. Bodhisattva’s are always symbolic of great compassion, as they are dedicated to enlightening others whilst delaying their own full enlightenment and nirvana. Guanyin is the embodiment of a compassionate bodhisattva, thought to have fertility bestowing powers. Widely worshiped in Chinese culture, when depicted with a child she is also referred to as Guanyin songzi. In China, these types of representations of Guanyin would have been placed on the family house altar. But they were also exported to the west as an exotic luxury. The striking resemblance to the western Madonna and Child is immediately apparent, which ensures the popularisation of this image in the West. A very similar group was depicted on a map in the famous atlas by Blaeu, dated 1655.


Ayers 2002, p.99 nr.50 Donnelly 1969, pl. 75 Jörg 1984, p.96 nr.51 Kerr & Ayers 2002


An almost identical figure is in the collection of the Groninger Museum ( 1960-51) and a smaller one is in Porzellansammlung Dresden ( 8550 ). The Victoria & Albert Museum also has a comparable figure (FE.20-1970) as does the Virginia Museum of Art (85.1502).


24 | Luohan A large stucco head of a Luohan, his elongated earlobes identifying him as a heavenly figure. His features are very realistic, with furrowed brow, raised eyebrows and wrinkling around the eyes. The eyes are inlaid with black glass, for added depth of expression. His bald head, in combination with his wise and benevolent expression, indicate this is a Buddhist Luohan. Luohan – or Arhat in sanskrit- are the personal disciples of Buddha. Having attained enlightenment, they are free of the cycle of reincarnation to act as protectors of Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism, they are seen as sages with supernatural powers and revered as minor deities. They are mostly depicted as elderly monks with shaved heads. Each has its own characteristics and can often be recognized by their attributes, much like Christian disciples. Luohans were often represented in groups of 16 or 18, usually placed in rows flanking either side of the main hall of the temple.

China, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) H: 32 cm provenance

Private Collection, United Kingdom, 2019 literature

Lefebvre d’Argencé 1974, p.286 nr.150 Paludan 2006, p.460-474 Weinuo 1991, nr.193-226, Welch 2008, p.197 fig.458 Williams 1976, p.157-168


The early Ming period saw a growth of prosperity, which ignited a huge increase of temple building and consequently also the production statuary for within. Stucco was an ideal material to produce large scale statuary quickly and with less expense. The material was also easily accessible and its malleability was ideal for making complex and expressive Buddhist figures. The stucco mix comprised locally sourced clay, mixed with other organic matter such as cotton wool and paper fibres. The mixture was applied to the entire surface of a wooden or iron frame forming the basic shape the statue. The clay surface was then fully coated with hemp fibres before neatly plastered over with a layer of fine clay. Finally, the bodily features and garments of the statue are painted with mineral pigments of different colours. Good comparable heads from the same period can be seen on the Arhats in the Shuanling Monastery, Pingyao. Compare also the style and expression on the Luohan in the Tsz Shan Monastery Buddhist Art Museum, Hong Kong ( 2017.15).


Chinese captions 78

1 | Zhang Qian

7 | Boy & Lotus Box

張騫乘槎尋源圖桌屏 中國, 清乾隆年間 高39.4公分, 寬32.3公分(尺寸不含木架)

執蓮童子紋印泥盒 中國, 清康熙年間 高4公分, 直徑11公分

2 | Scroll Weight

8 | Brush Pots


中國, 清康熙晚期(約康熙四十九至五 十九年) 含鈕高度11.1公分, 長35.2公分, 兩端方 形8.1x8.1公分

青花筆筒一對 中國, 清康熙年間 高18公分, 寬10公分

3 | Ruyi Scepter

9 | Guandi

竹如意 中國, 清嘉慶年間 長38.2公分

關公騎乘赤兔馬 中國, 清康熙中期 高34.5公分, 長29公分

4 | Brush Pot 水晶 筆筒 高10.3公分, 寬8.2公分 Water Pot 水晶 水盂 高4.7公分, 寬4.8公分

10 | Yanluo Wang

5 | Scholar’s Desk

11 | Celestial Official

學者辦公桌 中國, 清康熙年間

天官像 中國陝西, 明代 (約十六世紀) 高78.5公分, 寬28.8公分

6 | Frog

12 | Lan Caihe

蛙形水盂 中國, 清康熙年間 高7.3公分, 寬12公分

藍采和像 中國, 清康熙年間 高32公分

閻王像 中國, 清康熙年間 (約十七世紀晚期) 高60公分, 寬31公分, 直徑24.5公分

13 | Li Tieguai

19 | Standing Buddha

鐵拐李像 中國, 清乾隆初(約乾隆五年) 高31.2公分

立佛 中國, 北齊 高83公分, 寬28公分

14 | Peach Cadogan

20 | Temple Bell

桃形倒流壺 中國, 清代(約十八世紀) 高17.1公分, 寬22.5公分

廟宇銅鐘 中國, 明嘉靖十九年 高110公分, 直徑78公分

15 | Fruit Trees

21 | Lokapala


中國, 清代(花盆十八世紀, 果樹十九世紀)


天王像 中國, 唐代 高87公分, 長34公分

16 | Cranes

22 | Buddhist Lion


中國福建德化, 明末清初(十七世紀中葉)


佛獅 中國, 清康熙年間 高27公分

17 | Buddha Akshobhya

23 | Guanyin

東方不動如來佛像 中國, 清代(約十八世紀) 高17.1公分, 寬12.4公分

送子觀音像 中國, 清康熙年間 高37.7公分, 寬15公分

18 | Stele

24 | Luohan

佛像石碑 中國, 北齊 高29公分

羅漢頭像 中國, 明代 高32公分


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