QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY
The bronze is cast into a square-shaped ink pourer with a square-shaped spout and a handle with silver inlaid decoration. The ink pourer has a fitted hongmu cover inlaid with an archaic coin and rests on an elaborate openwork stand. The Japanese box in which the bronze is encased has an inscription in the exterior of the cover in ink which indicates its possible provenance, which reads 翠雲洞主愛藏 ‘Cherished Collection of the Master of Emerald Clouds Cave.’
Two particularly famous ‘Emerald Clouds Caves’ (Cuiyun dong 翠雲洞) areas exist, one near Yong’an 永安 in Fujian consisting of eighteen caves, and one far to the South in Guangzhou, both popular scenic areas during the late Qing. Given the locations, it is more likely that the ‘Emerald Clouds Caves’ referred to here is the one in Fujian, closer to Beijing. It is also possible that ‘Emerald Clouds’ was the name of a local academy (shuyuan 書院), and dongzhu 洞主 is ‘head master,’ but no academy can be identified. Therefore, ‘Master of Emerald Clouds Caves’ is most likely the studio name of some earlier nineteenth century person, but he too has not been identified.
The interior cover of the box has a further inscription in ink, which reads 明治十二年余在清國燕京 時所購得也 ‘In the twelfth year of the Meiji era  this was purchased by me while I was in Yenjing [Beijing] in the State of Qing [Qing dynasty China], (Signed) 潮坪璣 Ch␣hy␣ Tamaki
Cho-hyo- Tamaki was Shishido Tamaki 宍戸璣 (1829-1901) sobriquet Cho-hyo- 潮坪, samurai before the Meiji restoration, prominent Meiji statesman and official, Senator (1877), minister plenipotentiary to the court of the Qing Dynasty (1879-1881) 清国駐剳全権公使, representing Japan in negotiations over sovereignty of the Ryukyu Islands, member of the House of Peers (1885), ennobled viscount 子爵 in 1887, and member of the House of Peers (1890).
Cho-hyo- Tamaki 潮坪璣 (1829-1901)