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,
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:
An unusual shaped Chinese bamboo brush pot with carved decoration depicting a poem from Romance of Three Kingdoms.
A boxwood scroll-form brush rest:
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:
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:
Chinese perfumier finely carved in boxwood, depicting scholars beside a pavilion, circa 1850.
Chinese Bamboo Brush Pot:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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
A very unusual 19th century Chinese wood stand
Depicting aquatic design such as lotus flowers among leaves and pods.
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.