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Black Lacquer Box with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay of “Myriad Nations Presenting Tribute”

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Period: Early-Qing period (Qing dynasty, 1644–1911)
Medium: black lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl, gold tracery
Dimensions: Length 43.8 cm; width 29.8 cm; height 6.1 cm

This black rectangular lacquerware box features a cover decorated with mother-of-peal inlay. The illustration shows a river, over which stretches a crowded stone bridge, in the foreground while the middle ground features a towering temple by a bustling thoroughfare among flowering trees. People worship in front of the temple, behind which is a vision of dragons in gilded clouds against a background of layered rolling hills. The hills are painted in gold, and the flowering trees and dragon heads are inlaid with refined shell pieces in a brilliant design. With the theme “Myriad Nations Presenting Tribute” (wanguo laichao), the compact space vividly depicts more than sixty detailed figures, including Han Chinese and other ethnicities. The smiling figures carry loads or herd camels, elephants, or lions in a scene of visitors from across the world paying tribute to a thriving empire. The river and sea, the dragons showing merely their heads, and the visiting envoys symbolize peace throughout the imperial realm in an era of prosperity.

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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