Tixi lacquer box

Tixi lacquer box

Ming dynasty, 15th – 16th century

Diameter: 1 3/4 inches, 4.5 cm Height: 1 3/8 inches, 3.5 cm

Tixi lacquer box

A small tixi deep box of circular form, supported on a short straight foot. Both the domed cover and the straight sides are carved with four pommel scrolls. The box is covered in black lacquer, interspersed at regular intervals with thin layers of vermillion, with the grooves cut at an angle to make the red layers more visible. The interior and the base are plain and lacquered in black. Both the surface and interior are highly polished. With a Japanese wood box, which is inscribed with two characters on its cover and suggests the function of the lacquer box as a ‘perfume box’.


This well-preserved and elegant lacquer miniature box is a fine example of Ming dynasty tixi lacquer carving.  The decorative technique known in Japan as guri is known in Chinese as tixi, with the grooves resembling the texture of rhino horn: ti means to carve, xi means rhinoceros.  Given its small size and the inscription on the outer wood box, it might have been used as a container of incense powder or small incense cakes. The most comparable small tixi lacquer circular box, similar in the style of pommel scrolls but larger in size and with sharper edges to the box, is dated to the Ming dynasty, 15th to 16th century, and is described as a ‘tea canister’.  It is in the collection of the Tokugawa Art Museum.[1] Another slightly larger tixi lacquer box of oval form, with deeper carving of the pommel scrolls and dated earlier to the Southern Song dynasty (1127 – 1279), is in the Muwen Tang collection.[2]


Provenance: private collection, Japan

1 Karamono: Imported Lacquerwork- Chinese, Korean, and Ryukyuan (Okinawa), Selections from the Tokugawa Art Museum, no. 2, 1997, no. 13, p. 17
2 Kwan, S. Chinese Lacquer –The Muwen Tang Collection Series vol. 20, Hong Kong, 2010, no. 14, pp. 112-3


明 十五 – 十六世紀
徑:4.5 公分 高:3.5 公分
小型剔犀圓盒,子母口,矮圈足,弧壁,蓋面微突。通體內外髹黑漆,蓋面雕如意雲紋四朵,與 盒身四朵如意雲紋鏡面相對。剔犀刀口斜面顯露規律朱漆層,即明代黃成《髹飾錄》所載之「烏 間朱線」。配日本製木盒,蓋面書以「曲輪 香盒」,指明本器用途。日本德川美術館藏有一件 剔犀圓盒,平頂直壁,側邊如意雲紋樣式相似,體積稍大,應為茶筒之用。