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Purple Lacquer Square Box with Chamfered Corners and Gold-Traced Floral Designs and Inlays

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

This square box with chamfered corners is lacquered in purplish red and decorated with gold-traced tendrils around the sides of its lid. The upper surface of the lid is inlaid with various semi-precious stones (collectively called Hundred Treasures, baibao), including jade, ivory, coral, turquoise, glass, amber, and tourmaline, to create the images of a variety of objects and plants with auspicious implications. Certain details resulted from other decorative techniques; the carved lacquer flower basin and the goldfish painted to the glass vessel make the images more lifelike. All these images are invested with rich symbolism. The calabash is inscribed with two characters translated as Great Auspiciousness (Daji). That image and the pomegranates, prunus blossoms, narcissus, chimes, fish, and pine branches are either direct references, allegories, or homophonous-matchings invoking various blessings or auspicious concepts, including great fortune (as represented by the calabash inscribed with Daji), numerous male descendants (in the seedy pomegranates), festivity (homophonous with “chime”), abundance (homophonous with “fish”), longevity (in the evergreen pines), and peace and health (as symbolized by the prunus and narcissus). 

Website version edited by Zhuang Ying and Adam J. Ensign

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