Tixi lacquer stem cup
A tixi lacquer stem cup, the trumpet-shaped, knopped base supporting a deep bowl that terminates in a flared rim. The exterior of the bowl is carved in the tixi technique with a large band of five carved pommel scroll motifs above a narrower band of five inverted scrolls. The stem is carved with two plain rings above three V-shapes. The grooves are cut through a thick layer of black lacquer at an angle, revealing a pattern with distinctive layers of red and black. The interior of the bowl and the slightly recessed base are lined in silvered metal.
The tixi technique, which originated during the Southern Song dynasty (1127 – 1279) and remained popular well into the Ming dynasty, refers to the application of multiple layers of two or more contrasting colours of lacquer that are then carved at an angle; the result resembles the texture of rhinoceros horn hence the name tixi, ‘ti’ (to carve) and ‘xi’ (rhinoceros). The composite pommel scroll design in combination with the very deep carving suggests that this bowl was made in the Ming dynasty. Two closely comparable tixi lacquer stem cups of similar size and proportions are both dated to the Ming dynasty, 16th century: one from the Garner collection is now in the collection of the British Museum; the other with incised inscription ‘tian’ (meaning ‘sky’) to the base is in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. A number of comparable tixi lacquer stem cups with wider bowls are published: a pair of cups with an incised inscription ‘yu-shih’ (meaning ‘imperial edict’), dated to the Ming dynasty, is in the collection of the British Museum. A tixi lacquer stemcup dated to the Southern Song to Yuan dynasty, 12th – 14th century, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An example dated earlier to the Southern Song dynasty, 12th or 13th century, is in the Muwen Tang collection.
Private collection, Europe
- Kwan, S. Chinese Lacquer, The Muwen Tang Collection Series, vol.20, Hong Kong, 2010, p. 71
- The British Museum online collection archive, registration number: 1974,0226.7
- The Ashmolean Museum online collection archive, accession no. EA1965.4
- The British Museum online collection archive, registration number: 1974,0226.6.1
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art online collection archive, accession number: 2005.266
- Kwan, S. op. cit. no. 18, p. 120