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Red Lacquer Box Carved with Scene of Rock-Face Writing

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Period: Qianlong Reign (1736–1795), Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Dimensions: Height: 19.5 cm; diameter: 27 cm

The box is designed in the sunflower-petal style (kuiban shi). The lid is carved with imagery of a man inscribing poetry on a wall. A rugged mountain path is flanked on either side by a pavilion and a large tree with a large boulder lying across the front. A literatus stands at the boulder; he is deeply engaged as he lifts his arm to inscribe a poem onto the side of the rock face. The walls of the box are engraved with a total of twelve groups of flowers with each group consisting of one or two types of flowers, such as the peony, chrysanthemum, sunflower, plum blossom, camellia, and day lily. In the center of the interior of the lid are gilded engraved characters that read “Rock-Face Inscription Treasure Box” (Tibi baohe). In the middle of the exterior of the base are six gilded characters inscribed in regular script (kaishu, one of China’s major calligraphic forms) and divided into three columns that read “Crafted during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Great Qing Dynasty.”

Rock-face writing (tibi) refers to the carving of a poem on the vertical surface of a boulder or cliff. The literati and other scholars have produced this type of inscription in China since ancient times as a means of expressing their feelings and lamentations. The genre is also a common subject depicted in traditional painting, handicrafts, and clothing.

Chinese entry by Zhang Li

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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