OBJECTS FOR THE SCHOLAR'S DESK, Hong Kong 2016
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Playthings

A HUANGHUALI TABLE SCREEN

QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY, WITH INSCRIPTION DATED IN ACCORDANCE TO 1794

HEIGHT: 46.9CM

The huanghuali screen is inset with a dreamstone marble panel with dark brown veining resembling a misty mountain landscape scene, with a poem inscribed in ink:

甲寅春日 Jiayin chunri [31 January – 28 April 1794]
袖中帶得支機石 Kept safe up a sleeve is her loom stone
補天以能砥亂流 Using power enough to mend heaven to stand firm here in turbulent flow.
瘦生題 “Inscribed by Shousheng”

Zhijishi 支機石 is the weaving loom stone of the Zhinü 織女 (Celestial Weaver Maid) who weaves the colourful cloud patterns in the sky. Di 砥 “whetstone” is here a verb “stand firm” as in the expression dizhu zhongliu 砥柱中流 “standing firm as a pillar in midstream”. Shousheng 瘦生 “Lean Scholar” is one of the personal names (zi 字) of the mid-18th century painter and calligrapher Nian Wangchen 年王臣, whose original personal name was Rulin 汝鄰, and it was by the name Nian Rulin 年汝鄰 that he made himself known as a painter and calligrapher. A native of Guangning 廣寧 (present-day Beizhen 北鎮 in Liaoning), Nian’s family belonged to the Hanjun xianghuangqi 漢軍鑲黃旗 (Han Chinese Army Bordered Yellow Banner), and he was the great-nephew of Nian Gengyao 年羹堯 (1679-1726), a prominent general who did extensive service on the Western Frontier under both the Kangxi and Yongzheng emperors. Nian Rulin was also an accomplished poet whose works were compiled as the Shousheng yingao 瘦生吟稿 (Drafts of Verse by Shousheng). In calligraphy he emulated Zhao Mengfu 趙孟傾 and in painting Ni Can 倪璨.

The dreamstone fits within a huanghuali stand with a scrolling openwork floral design above an apron decorated correspondingly, all inset between stylised scroll feet.

明十七世紀 黃花梨嵌雲石座屏