Lacquer box of foliate form

Lacquer box of foliate form

Qing dynasty, Qianlong period, 1736 -1795

Width: 5 7/8 inches, 15 cm
Height: 2 3/8  inches, 6.1 cm

Lacquer box of foliate form
Lacquer box of foliate form

A lacquer box of foliate form with straight sides, terminating in lipped rims. The flat top is carved through a thick layer of red lacquer and depicts two scholars, accompanied by two young attendants, standing beside a pavilion and watching two cranes in flight in the sky over a river landscape.  The pavilion, which stands on a rocky promontory in the shadow of a large pine tree, is minutely carved with a scholar’s desk, a brush pot, books and a screen at the back. The background of the scene has three different types of diapers representing land, water and sky. The scene is framed by a single key-fret band. The sides are carved with hexagonal diaper pattern.  The interior and the base are lacquered in black.


The finely carved decoration on this lacquer box constitutes a birthday greeting. The crane and the pine are both symbols of longevity, and together form the pun “may you possess the longevity of the crane and the age of the pine” (heshou songling).[1]  This birthday greeting can be used for a single person or for a husband and wife, as the pine and the crane can represent a couple. The impressive skills of the craftsman are demonstrated in the carving in minute detail, especially the vivid facial expression of the scholar who faces the viewer, the depiction of the pavilion and its display of scholar’s objects. A closely comparable circular cinnabar lacquer box is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.  Its cover, similarly depicting a scene of releasing cranes, includes two scholars accompanied by two young attendants beside a pavilion. This box is carved with a title ‘Treasure box of releasing cranes’ on the interior, and a Qianlong mark on the base (fig. 1).2


1 Tse Bartholomew, T., Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2006, 7.13.5, pp. 180
2 Heguang Ticai: Gugong Cang Qi (Carving the Subtle Radiance of Colours: Treasured Lacquerware in the National Palace Museum), National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2008, no. 117, p. 125


清 乾隆年間 1736 – 1795
寬:15 公分 高:6.1 公分
多曲形蓋盒,子母口,上下對開。蓋面淺浮雕人物庭園景致,兩老耆與兩侍童於庭園松樹下,仰 望兩隻仙鶴翱翔天際。松樹後方可見一涼亭,庭圍憑欄,中設書案,案上置筆、筆筒、墨硯、書 匣等物,後襯屏風。雕刻精緻細膩,山石浮雲及天、水、地疏朗分明。蓋面緣雕回紋一周,盒壁 滿雕六角錦地,盒內及盒底髹黑漆。蓋面紋樣除展現中國傳統文人雅緻閒逸的自然生活情調,亦 借飛鶴與古松寓「鶴壽松齡」之生日祝福。臺北故宮博物院藏有一件清乾隆剔紅放鶴寶盒,蓋面 構圖極為相似,亦描繪兩長者與兩侍童立於屋前,看鶴翱翔天際,此盒蓋內陰刻填金「放鶴寶 盒」,底款「大清乾隆年製」。