QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY
LENGTH OF INKSTONE: 9.1CM; LENGTH OF BOX: 10.6CM
The inkstone box is carved on both sides in the form of a compressed double gourd with attendant melons and leafy vines clambering on the surface of the box in deep undercut relief. A single cricket is perched on one of the leaves. The interior of the box reveals an inkstone of matching double gourd shape, with a carved inscription from Gao Huanghan 高鳳翰 (1683-1743), which can be translated as:
|與浮江湖||To float with on rivers and lakes—|
|千金一壺||A pot worth a thousand pieces of gold!|
|硯上月暈作粉綠色||When moonlight shines on the inkstone it becomes pale green|
|而疊層旋||forming multiple layers that circle around|
|疑所謂象眼也||which makes one think of what people refer to as an elephant’s eye.|
|南村老人。||[Signed] Old Man of South Village|
“Pot” refers to the double gourd shape, or double calabash, which in turn suggests an allusion to the Zhuangzi , Chapter 1:
Huizi [Master Hui] said to Master Zhuang: “King Wei presented me with a giant calabash seeds, and, when I planted them, they produced gourds that weighed five piculs. I tried to use them to hold liquid, but they were not sturdy enough to hold themselves up. I split them to make ladles, but they were too shallow to contain anything. They certainly were great big empty things, but since I thought they were useless, I smashed them up.”. . . . [Master Zhuang replied:] “Now, you had some five piculs calabashes, so why did you not think to make them into giant basins so you could float around on rivers and lakes? Instead, you were upset that ladles made from them were too shallow to contain anything! So, after all, you have a peng weed for a mind, don’t you?”
Gao Huanghan 高鳳翰 (1683-1743), personal name (zi 字) Xiyuan 西園, sobriquets (hao 號) 南村 (South Village) and Qieyuan 且園 (Try a Garden), and late in life Nanfu shanren 南阜山人 (Mountain man of South Hill), was a native of Jiaozhou 膠州 (present-day Jiaozhou City, Shandong) and appeared in the publication Qingdai xuezhe xiangzhuan heji 清代學者象傳合集 Illustrated Biographies of Learned Persons of the Qing Era, Combined Collections, Shanghai: Guji chubanshe , 1989, 153.
A similar bamboo double gourd covered box without an inkstone is published in 故宮雕刻珍萃 The Palace Museum Collection of Elite Carvings, 2004, p. 63, Catalogue No. 33.
Qian Ding 錢鼎 (1896-1989)
Ha Shaofu 哈少甫 (1856-1934)
Gao Huanghan 高鳳翰 (1683-1743)