Length: 8 1/4 inches, 21.3 cm
Height: 1 1/4 inches, 3.2 cm

Huanghuali writing box

China, 18th century

A rectangular stationary box, carved from a single piece of huanghuali, as is the slightly domed cover, which has a recess on the reverse. The box is supported on four L-shaped feet. The interior is divided into five compartments: the largest one is fitted with an ink stone. The second largest compartment at the other end is of square proportions and retains traces of red seal paste. In the middle are three compartments, two of square shape and one rectangular. The exterior of the box is completely plain except for beaded edges where the lid meets the body of the box and shows the strongly figured grain of the wood.

This exquisite, unusual small box was intended to hold a scholar’s essential accoutrements, an ink stone, small seals and seal paste, for use when travelling. Such travelling boxes are rare, and not many examples are recorded. A small box with sliding top carved from a single piece of jichihmu with similar compartments for ink and brushes is in the Piccus collection.1

Private collection, Belgium

  1. Rice Jones, R. and Forsyth, A., Wood from the Scholar’s Table, Hong Kong, 1984, no. 51, pp. 92-3