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Black Rectangular Lacquer Box with Shell Inlays and 'Jiang Qianli' Inscription

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Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Dimensions: Length: 13.0 cm; width: 9.5 cm; height: 7.0 cm

This rectangular box has a flat cover, rounded corners, straight sides, and a smooth base. Coated in black lacquer, the work features embellishments of shell inlay. The interior is also lacquered in black and inscribed with the name 'Jiang Qianli' in seal script. The lid bears the seal mark 'Hall of Eternal Spring' (Changchun tang) and a poem that reads, “Style as gold, style as jade. The superior man is persistent, carefully protecting his case, showing confidence without solicitation, serious yet not severe, showing the characteristics of bamboo.” Other inscriptions include 'Xibai ming' (lit. “Xibai Inscription) and a square seal with the inscription 'Xingyi' (lit. “Star Dash”). Each side of the box is inlaid exquisitely with shells in the design of a jiao-dragon (i.e., dragon of clouds and rain) among clouds. The dragon’s gold-plated scales harmonize with the waves of the sea.

Jiang Qianli was a native of Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. An artisan of the late-Ming period (Ming dynasty, 1368–1644), Jiang was known for his lacquerware with shell inlays, but the dates of his birth and death are unknown. The popularity of his works are seen in a saying that circulated during his lifetime: “Every home has a cup and a plate from Jiang Qianli.”

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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