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Polychrome Lacquer Double-Peach Shaped Box with Gold-Filled Architecture in Celestial Landscape

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium: Wood

This double-peach shaped box with a wooden core is furnished with a ring foot and a tongue at the rims for fitting the lid. The top of the lid and the vertical sides of the box and lid are decorated with the themed-image "Bringing Longevity to the Sea Pavilion" (Haiwu tianchou) using gold-filling (qiangjin) and polychrome lacquering techniques. The scene depicts pavilions in the abode of the immortals on a mountainous island amid the sea. On the balcony of one of the pavilions is an arrow-vase. Eight divine cranes emerge from the clouds and fly from different directions towards the vase, trying to throw the tallies held in their mouth into the vase. The box is noted for its unique shape, exquisite gold-filled details, rich palette, and auspicious implications. It affords a fine example of objects conveying birthday wishes.

The allusion of "Bringing Longevity to the Sea Pavilion" originated in "Conversations of Three Old Men", Collected Writings by Su Dongpo (Dongpo zhilin: Sanlao yu) written by the Song scholar Su Shi. The story tells of three old men chancing to meet. They enquired after each other’s age. One old man said that whenever the sea had transformed into mulberry fields, he had put aside one tally; now the tallies had filled up ten houses. In the course of time, the story gradually incorporated more mythical elements including the sea house and the cranes, and became a popular allusion. 

Website version edited by Zhuang Ying and Adam J. Ensign

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