Zitan and jade brush pot

China, Qing dynasty, 18th or 19th century

Height: 5 1⁄8 inches, 13 cm
Width: 3 15 ⁄16 inches, 10 cm

A zitan brush pot of square form with a slightly recessed base, supported on four bracket feet.  All four sides are inset with rectangular white jade panels, each carved in relief with a dense, formalised design of lotus flower, interlinked with scrolling stems.  Both the wood and the jade are well polished. The wood has the rich purplish hue  typical of zitan, with characteristic minute silvery streaks.


This fine brush pot is very unusual in that it is made not only from beautiful quality wood but it also has finely carved white jade panels on its four sides. Zitan (‘purple sandalwood’) is the most dense and slow growing of hardwoods used to create objects for the scholar’s table. It is used rarely due to the size limitations and the delicate nature of the wood. Two comparable zitan brush pots inlaid with jade panels on each side, dated to the Qing dynasty, are in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.[1]

  1. Liu, J. ed.,  Chinese Bamboo, Wood, Ivory, Rhinoceros Horn Illustration Catalogue­ Vol. Three – Wood Carvings (Part 2), Wenwu chubanshe, Beijing, 2009, nos. 190, 193, pp. 238, 243