Zitan ink rest

Zitan ink rest

China, Qing dynasty, 18th – 19th century

Length: 5 1/8 inches, 13 cm
Height: 1 inch, 2.6 cm

A small zitan ink rest of rectangular shape with flat surface and scroll ends, with one end extended and curled back. The two scroll ends are connected with a recessed panel. The sides are finely incised with a grooved line, appearing as a double-beaded effect. The wood is well polished and has the purplish hue typical of zitan.


This ink rest is a very fine example for its beautiful quality of the zitan wood and exquisite carving.  It is fashioned from a whole piece of zitan wood, which is a lavish way of using this very expensive material. The shape of this ink rest reminds one of Ming furniture, as the fashion of re-inventing antique pieces for the scholar’s desk was very popular during the Qing dynasty. A comparable zitan ink rest, inlaid with a cloud design in cloisonné enamel, similar in the scroll-ends and the recessed lateral strips, is dated to the early Qing dynasty and is in the Qing Court Collection at the Palace Museum, Beijing.[1] Three comparable Qing dynasty ink rests in jade, similar in their scroll-end shape, are respectively in the collections of the Palace Museum, Beijing[2] and the National Palace Museum, Taipei.[3]

  1. Zheng, Minzhong ed., Small Refined Articles of the Study: The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum, Shanghai, 2009, no. 125, p. 146
  2. Zheng, Minzhong ed., op. cit., no. 126, p. 147
  3. The National Palace Museum online collection archive, nos. .. 189, 1221