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Imperial Ink Sticks with Pictures of Four Libraries and Poems

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

A set of five ink blocks of different shapes. 

The round ink block at the centre, 7.6cm in diameter and 1.6cm thick, is painted with a hydra design within a golden circle. At the centre of the design are two characters, meaning "Imperial," written in the seal style of calligraphy. The names of the twelve Earthly Branches are written on the outer edge of the circle in the regular script. Further from the edge of the circle is a four-line poem with seven words in each line by Emperor Qianlong. The back of the ink block is carved with pictures of the twelve symbolic animals.   
  The chime-stone-shaped ink block above is 15.6 cm long, 4.9 cm wide and 1.9 cm thick. The front of it is inscribed in the regular script with a poem on Wenyuan Pavilion by the emperor. Carved on the back is a picture of Wenyuan Pavilion. The four characters for "Wenyuan Pavilion Ink" are carved in relief on the right side in regular script.   
  The rectangular ink block on the left is 13.8 cm long, 6.2cm wide and 1.9 cm thick. On the front is a poem on Wenjin Pavilion by the emperor in regular script. A picture of Wenjin Pavilion is carved on the back, and the four characters for "Wenjin Pavilion Ink" are carved in relief on the right side.   The ox-tongue-shaped ink block on the right is 13cm long, 5.8cm wide and 1.9cm thick. A poem on Wenyuan Pavilion by the emperor is inscribed in the regular script on the front. The back is carved with a picture of Wenyuan Pavilion. The right side is carved in relief with the characters for "Wenyuan Pavilion Ink" in regular script.   
  The fan-shaped ink block below is 15 cm long, 4.9 cm wide and 1.9 cm thick. Inscribed on the front is a poem on Wenshuo Pavilion by the emperor in the regular script. On the back is a picture of Wenshuo Pavilion, and on the right side are the characters for "Wenshuo Pavilion Ink" in regular script.   
  At the end of the poems on the latter four ink blocks are characters for "Respectfully copied by the subject Peng Yuanrui," and on the left side are six characters for "Made in the Qianlong reign of Great Qing."   
  This set of ink blocks is dark black in colour and fine in texture. The emperor's poems on the front are inscribed in gold and the pictures of pavilions on the back are carved in well-defined lines.   
  In the 37th year of the Qianlong reign (1772), Emperor Qianlong issued a decree for the compilation of The Complete Library of the Four Divisions of Books, which was completed in the forty-seventh year of the emperor Qianlong (1782) and stored in Wenyuan Pavilion in the Forbidden City. Three copies of it were made in the same year and preserved in Rehe's Wenjin Pavilion, Yuanmingyuan's Wenyuan Pavilion and Shenyang's Wenshuo Pavilion. The names of the four libraries written on the ink blocks were places where the copies of The Complete Library of the Four Divisions of Books were stored.

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