Treasure Box of Eternal Spring and Longevity

citation

From the uppermost surface downward, strata of cinnabar, green, and buff lacquer cover the surface of the round box with low sides. The shoulders slope gently and the “mouth” of the box is slightly constricted. This shape is sometimes called “steamed cake box” (zhengbing he) in reference to a food item that this shape resembles. The lacquer surface is nearly a quarter of an inch thick and deeply carved. The artisan varied the depth of the incisions in order to expose and utilize the different colors in making the design. The contrasts in color and height of the carving create a vibrant, three-dimensional design.

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign, 1736-1795
Medium
Carved red, green, and yellow lacquer on wood core
Dimensions
H x W x D: 16.5 x 44 x 44 cm (6 1/2 x 17 5/16 x 17 5/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
F1990.15a-e
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Container, Lacquer
Type

Box

Keywords
China, deer, dragon, Qianlong reign (1736 - 1796), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), scholar, Shoulao, spring, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

From 1980 to 1988
Takashi Yanagi, Kyoto, Japan, purchased at a 1980 auction at the Tokyo Art Club [1]

From 1988 to 1990
Donald J. Wineman, New York, purchased from Takashi Yanagi in 1988 [2]

From 1990
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Donald J. Wineman in 1990

Notes:

[1] See Curatorial Note 8, Jan Stuart, December 1990, in the object record. Also, according to correspondence provided by Mr. Wineman, Klaus Naumann (of East Asian Art, Tokyo) informed him that he had once seen the object in the Kanazawa city home of a famous (unnamed) Japanese collector in 1968. Further, the Chinese rare book scholar Soren Edgren saw the object in Kyoto between 1969 and 1971 (see Curatorial Note 8, Jan Stuart, December 1990, in the object record).

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Donald J. Wineman
Takashi Yanagi

Description

From the uppermost surface downward, strata of cinnabar, green, and buff lacquer cover the surface of the round box with low sides. The shoulders slope gently and the "mouth" of the box is slightly constricted. This shape is sometimes called "steamed cake box" (zhengbing he) in reference to a food item that this shape resembles. The lacquer surface is nearly a quarter of an inch thick and deeply carved. The artisan varied the depth of the incisions in order to expose and utilize the different colors in making the design. The contrasts in color and height of the carving create a vibrant, three-dimensional design.

Inscription(s)

On re-lacquered base, incised and filled with gold, Da Qing Qianlong nianzhi.

Label

The large character that appears on the lid of the box means "spring," a metaphor for eternal youth. The roundel superimposed over the character contains images of the Star God of Longevity and one of his attributes, a deer, which is a symbol of long life and prosperity. Bands of light appear behind the character and radiate upward in a fan-shape from a dish containing treasures, including coins and a branch of coral, an ingredient in the elixir of immortality. Two dragonlike animals flank the character. Upon close inspection, their subtle differences appear. The one on the right has a spiked tail that represents the Dragon of the East, while the creature on the left has a wispy tail and represents the Tiger of the West. Clouds fill the sky.

The design on the top of the box originated under the patronage of the sixteenth-century Jiajing emperor. About two centuries later, the Qianlong emperor revived the design for boxes presented as ceremonial gifts on occasions, such as the Chinese New Year and birthdays.

Published References
  • Futamono: East Asian Boxes. Exh. cat. Osaka. cat. 110.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum

Related Objects