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Black Lacquer Clock with Eight Immortals

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Date: 1749
Artist(s): imperial workshops

Dimensions: height: 185 cm, width: 102 cm, length: 70 cm

This clock sits on a rectangular table that like the clock case is decorated with black lacquer and painted patterns. The two-hand dial is inscribed with the Qianlong four-character reign mark and is decorated with yellow enamel, a hue especially reserved for items used by the imperial family. Five winding keyholes on the dial regulate five springs that function to control the time as well as the quarterly and hourly chimes. When the bottom two springs are wound the scenes in the panels to the right and left of the clock rotate. When fully wound the clock strikes every quarter hour then the three doors on the second story automatically open to reveal three figures holding hammers and bells. The figures on the right and left strike bells to announce the quarter hours while the central figure marks the hour. After performing their duties the figures retreat into the tower while music plays and the scenes flanking the clock begin to move. On the left, a crane and an immortal dance while the sea surges and a pavilion gradually rises. On the right, between hills of an imaginary landscape a figure is shown enjoying his birthday party as he accepts gifts from the Eight Immortals.   
  This clock has seven mechanical systems, which control the chimes and the backdrops. During the Qianlong reign, the Imperial Workshops recruited professional clock makers and machinists from Europe. Their influence is seen in the wonderfully elaborate nature of this timepiece. According to the Imperial Workshop's Archives of Handicrafts (Huoji dang), the Clock Workshops received a blueprint for this clock from a European designer in 1743, and completed it in 1749.

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