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Clock with Five Boys Competing for a Lotus

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: gilded copper and glass
Date: undated
Origin: Guangzhou
Dimensions: Height: 99 cm, width: 45 cm, length: 35 cm

Made of gilded copper the frame of this clock is divided into three segments. A moveable scene is the main feature of the lower segment. In the center of the scene is a boy standing in a large vat holding a lotus, he is surrounded by four other boys intent on grabbing the lotus from him. The tableau is a metaphor for a family with many sons. Framing the scene are two couplets, one of which reads "the elements were favorable, the country prospered, and the people were at peace"; the other couplet makes reference to countries that respected China and sent emissaries to pay homage to the emperor. The middle section resembles a building with two red doors and European style columns. When the mechanism is activated, the doors open and reveal a crouching dragon blowing a ball. The dragon's head is covered with a glass bubble, inside of which is a small ball. When wound up, an air cell in the mechanism fills with air, which is then expelled through the dragon to a tube that contains the ball. As the pressure within the air cell changes the ball vibrates up and down. Once the air is expended the ball ceases to move. At the same time the boys in the scene below jump about trying to catch the lotus and all the glass flowers in the vases as well as the decorative spiraling flowers revolve.  
  Due to its complex mechanism, especially the ingenious dragon, this clock is the one of the finest made in Guangzhou during the Qianlong period.

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