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Collection

China

Title
Bamboo brush pot decorated with three human figures in front of a pavilion in high relief
Place of origin
China
Year
18th century-19th century
Media category
Woodwork
Materials used
bamboo
Dimensions

13.2 x 6.5 cm

Credit
Gift of John Yu, in memory of George Soutter 2012. Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program.
Accession number
147.2012
Location
Not on display
Further information

The scene depicted here reminds one of the story of ‘Xi Cai Yu Qin’ (Pleasing parents) in the Book of Twenty-four [examples] of Filial Piety. According to the story, Lao Lai Zi who lived during the Spring-Autumn and Warring States period (770-221 BCE) was a model son who always showed due respect to his parents. He would dress as a boy and behave like a child even when he was in his seventies in order to make his parents laugh.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, June 2012

Bamboo Carving:
The earliest mention of a bamboo brush pot in literature appears during the Song dynasty (960-1127). Zhu Yizun of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) wrote in his 'Bi Tong Ming' ('On Brush Pot'): “Brushes that lie on the desk randomly are like people who don’t have proper deportment. When they are put in a brush pot, like guests finding a home, they become proper.”

Starting from the late Ming dynasty, the literati of the day stressed the cultivation of 'ya' (elegant, refined distinguished) style in their life. This style was expressed in their studies, carved bamboo ornaments, including brush pots ('bitong'), arm rests ('bige') and incense tubes ('xiangtong'). These were highly sought after because bamboo was considered as one of the four symbols for 'gentleman' whose integrity should be like the sections on bamboo trunks that go higher and higher.

The art of bamboo carving, probably started as early as the Tang dynasty, and became a unique art form. At its apogee in the early Qing dynasty (1644-1911), bamboo carving eclipsed all other similar forms of art and craft.