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Carved Red Lacquer Plate with a "Hundred Sons" at Play (Tihong baizizui pan)

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: carved red lacquer
Date: undated
Dimensions: height: 5.6 cm, length: 58.7 cm, width: 32.7 cm

This rectangle decorative panel is covered with polychrome lacquer. From the lowest to the top, the colors include olive, purple, yellow, green, and red. Incised motifs depict nearly a hundred one-hundred-day-old children at play. Of those some are dragon dancing, some are boating and parading. At the upper right corner, six children are reading, while several ones are skipping rope at the upper left corner. These lively children make a vivid scene. The simple and elegant lacquer is distinctly carved into different levels. The bottom uses black lacquer, on which are two inscriptions in regular script (kai shu): one reads "Made in Qianlong period of the great Qing dynasty" (daqing qianlong nian zhi); following it is "Plate with a hundred one-hundred-day-old children" (baizi zuipan).   
  The character "zui" indicates an infant of one hundred days old. The Essentials of Affairs (Hebi shilei) by Xie Weixin of the Song dynasty (960-1279) records that an object set out for a one-hundred-day-old infant was called zuipan. In traditional custom, parents placed many objects before an infant on its one hundredth day and watched to see which object it would choose as an omen of the future. This plate contained the objects used for the princes in the Qing court.   
  The exquisite and sophisticated carving contributes to the sharp and clear lines, displaying the lacquer carving level at that time. During the Qianlong reign, the court usually ordered the imperial manufactory in Suzhou to carve many lacquer objects. The record in Imperial Workshop of The Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian) reveals that the imperial manufactory sent a plate with a hundred one-hundred-day-old children to the court in the Qianlong reign. This artifact provides valuable material for the research on lacquer production during the Qianlong period.

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