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

Red lacquer circular box with 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 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.

The double or bottle gourd (hulu) is an important auspicious symbol in Chinese art, with many meanings.  It can symbolize 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

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