Diameter: 2 7/8 inches, 7.2 cm
Height: 1 1/2 inches, 3.8 cm


Lacquer box with double gourds

China, 18th century

A cinnabar lacquer box of circular form with a flat-topped sleeve cover.  The top is carved through layers of red and ochre lacquer with a decoration of double gourds, suspended from flowery branches, with some traces of green paint remaining.  The ground consists of diapers with central wan characters.  The sides of the cover are carved with interlocking wan pattern.  The base of the box is engraved with foliate scrolls and chrysanthemum petals, surrounding a central Shou character. The interior is covered in a layer of black lacquer.

This decoration rarely occurs on 18th century lacquer. The double or bottle gourd (hulu) is an important auspicious symbol in Chinese art, with many meanings. It symbolizes fertility and stands for ‘ceaseless generations of descendants’ and blessings.[1]  The decoration of bottle gourds on a vine (huluman) signifies: ‘May you have numerous descendants’.[2]

Ben Janssens Oriental Art, February 2020
Private Collection, UK

1    Tse Bartholomew, T. Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 3.3, p. 61
2    Tse Bartholomew, T. op.cit., 3.3.1, p. 61