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Scholar’s Implements


Qing Dynasty, 19th Century

Length: 25.7cm

The wristrest is carved on the front with a two-column inscription in kaishu and can be translated as:

不俗即仙骨 Unworldly, then you’ve the bones of an immortal,
多情乃佛心 Much compassion, then you’ve the mind of the Buddha

The inscription has two seal facsimiles Binhua 彬華 and Pushi 朴石.

Liu Binhua 劉彬華, personal name (zi 字) Zaolin 藻林, sobriquet Pushi 樸[ 朴] 石 (Uncarved Stone), was a native of Guangdong 廣東, Panyu 番禺 District. Jinshi of Jiaqing 6 (1801), Liu was subsequently appoined a junior compiler in the Hanlin Academy( 翰林院編修). Unambitious and retiring, he was unhappy with an official career, so asked to be allowed to return home, where he became Master of Instruction first at the Duanxi 端溪 and later at theYuehua 越 華 Academies. His verse is collected in the Yuhu shanfang shichao 玉壺山房詩鈔 (Draft Collection of verse from the Jade Pot Studio), and he compiled the Lingnan qunya 嶺南群雅 (Elegant Verse from Lingnan), First 初 and Second Collections 集. He was also an accomplished landscape painter.

The back of the wristrest is densely carved in shallow relief with Budai as the central figure, watching two scholars playing weiqi . The foreground depicts a teacher and student while in the background two attendants prepare tea next to a pavilion. An inscription entitled Sanyou tu 三友圖 “Picture of the Three Friends”is carved at the top of the wristrest and can be translated as:

亥未 秋九月九日 12 October 1823
刻於白野山房為瑜山上人法正 Carved/engraved at the Unsullied Wilderness Mountain Lodge for the Critical Scutiny of His Excellence Yushan.

The inscription is signed Xinyun 馨雲“Fragrant Clouds”and the seals Zhi 之 and Yin 印 which connect with the above name to become “The Seal of Xinyun.”

See Zhongguo meishujia renming cidian 中國美術家人名辭典, 1320b. The Buddhist reference on the one side of the wrist rest and the Buddhist picture on the other indicate that the recipient of the object was a Buddhist monk, Yushan, but other than his name nothing more is known of him. The Baiye shanfang “Unsullied Wilderness Mountain Lodge” has not been identified or located. Xinyun 馨雲 “Fragrant Clouds” appears to be the personal name or sobriquet of Yang Yulian 楊玉蓮, a native of Jingyang 涇陽district in Shaanxi (present-day Xi’an Prefecture), who is known to have had a studio name, Yunfang ge 芸芳閣 (Rue Fragrance Pavilion) seems to have lived during the 19th century.

The studio name Yunfang ge indicates that Yang Yulian was an accomplished woman calligrapher and bamboo carver, perhaps also a painter. (see Qingren shiming biecheng zihao suoyin 清人室名別稱字號索引 (Guide to the Studio Names, Alternate Names, Personal Names and Sobriquets of Qing Era People) (Shanghai: Guji chubanshe, 2001), 2:751. The Sanyou tu 三友圖 “Picture of the Three Friends” is not the usual Hansui sanyou tu 歲寒三友圖 “Picture of the Three Friends in the Cold of the Year” whose subject is the pine, bamboo, and plum, but a depiction of three monks playing chess in the courtyard of a Buddhist temple, the monk in the middle is obviously Budai 布袋 “Cloth Sack” the legendary Tang Monk, who is supposed to be an incarnation of Maitreya. Here the figure is surely meant to suggest the Monk Yushan for whom the wrist rest was made. It is uncertain whether the original painting was by Liu Binhua and copied as an engraving by Yang Yulian or if Yang did the original as well as the engraving.

The bamboo is well patinated to a reddish brown colour.

清十九世紀 竹雕臂擱