For thousands of years Chinese scholars, greatly esteemed by their society, were also collectors of high quality, sophisticated objets d’art; some functional, some inspirational.  The objects showcased here were created for Scholars to surround themselves with – brushes, brush pot and rest, water droppers, toggles, figurines, and paperweights – and represent the pinnacle of an art form that was refined over thousands of years by Chinese artisans. These objects embody the highest degree of technical precision and a finely honed aesthetic sensibility.

A set of scholars’ items

A bronze paper weight depicting Liu Hai playing with a toad:
Late Ming period,
Height: 6cm
This bronze piece is well cast, depicting a Chinese traditional story called “Liu Hai playing with Toad” (刘海戏金蟾). Liu hai holds a string of coins in his right hand and sits on the toad, which implies an auspicious meaning of being prosperous.
An unusual shaped bamboo brush pot:
18th century
Height: 13cm
Width: 9.2cm
 An unusual shaped Chinese bamboo brush pot with carved decoration depicting a poem from Romance of Three Kingdoms.
A boxwood scroll-form brush rest:
19th century
Width: 14.9cm
 The scroll-form brush rest is carved in relief with a grasshopper perched on a hibiscus bloom borne on a leafy stem, with an inscription ni Xinluo Shanren dayi, which may be translated as: ‘In the style of Xinluo Shanren’, followed by the artist’s signature, Jin Jueshan, and a seal, Jueshan.
A rectangular Hongmu small Scholar table:
18th century
Length: 20.5cm
Width: 35.9cm
Height: 9cm
Resembling a low rectangular kang table, the Scholar table has a plain top with an ice-plate-edge and stepped moulding. The recessed waist inflects to join a decorative apron with the openwork of scrolling leafy tendrils and ruyi pattern. The finely carved apron provides a contrast for the plain top which makes this stand high appreciation and value. This table was originally from Guangzhou national cultural relic store.

A selection of scholar’s objects

Chinese Boxwood perfumier:
Circa 1850
Height: 9.2cm
Width: 5cm
Chinese perfumier finely carved in boxwood, depicting scholars beside a pavilion, circa 1850.
Chinese Bamboo Brush Pot:
18th Century
Diameter: 7.2cm
Height: 14.5cm
Chinese bamboo brush pot carved with mountain landscape, 牧山图, inscribed by Zhou Mushan. The scene shows a landscape painting in low relief, catering to literati taste. On the right corner of the scene is a boat with a boatman, which echoes with the inscription ‘calling for a boat’ and give a poetic impression. The following is the original text: 欲呼扁舟来。牧山图
Chinese jade beast:
Circa 1800
Length: 5cm
Height: 3.8cm
Jade carving in the form of a recumbent mythical beast with its head turned sharply backwards, the stone of a milky white tone. It represents good fortune and wealth.
Chinese Bronze Paperweight:
Circa 1700
Length: 7cm
Width: 4.5cm
Chinese Ming bronze scroll weight with a finely carved ‘Mythical Beast’, its head turned to the right resting on its hindquarter and its tail curled.
Chinese Wooden Brush:
18th century
Length: 31cm
Chinese brush carved in boxwood, (huangyangmu), and hongmu, depicting two chi dragons entangling along the body of the brush head to tail. One of the dragons wraps its head around the bottom of the brush, looking back towards the other. The facial features of the dragon are rendered stylized.
Chinese Boxwood Toad:
Circa 1800
Length: 4.2cm
Width: 3cm
Height: 2cm
The boxwood carved in the round as a crouching toad looking to its front, the carving presents the detail of dark skin on the back with a small rolling ball in the mouth.

Wood Stand

19th century
Diameter: 26.5cm
Height: 21cm
A Chinese Hongmu Stand, the top carved in burlwood above an apron depicting stylised orchids in Ruyi panels, with five cabriole legs, strengthened by stretchers.

18th century Chinese wood stand carved in hongmu

The stand was designed for an incense burner.
The carved apron above an openwork top showing stylised ruyi amongst scroll pattern.
Qianlong ( 1736-1795)
24cm x 24cm
Height: 9cm

A very unusual 19th century Chinese wood stand

Depicting aquatic design such as lotus flowers among leaves and pods.
Diameter: 24cm
Height: 10cm

A two-tiered Zitan picnic box 18th/19th Century

This picnic box comprising a narrow cover and two trays, also with a smaller fitted inner tray, set on a base frame from which rises the rectangular handle flanked on the sides by standing spandrels carved in the form of Ruyi. The handle and frame are reinforced with metal mounts. Tiered boxes are documented as having been in use by the Song dynasty to hold food, drink and small objects during excursions. They come in a variety of sizes, including a particularly large size which required two people to carry. The Chinese consider zitan the most precious of all woods and have used it from ancient time to the present for making furniture, musical instrument and other works of art.
Height: 24cm

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