21.5 cm diam.
The ink rubbing was taken of a tile from the great Han dynasty palace Weiyanggong (the name was changed to Shouchenggong during the emperor Wang Mang’s reign, 9-23 BCE), located northwest of present day Xi’an. The palace was built in 200 BCE by the first emperor Gaozu and was the main palace throughout the duration of the Han dynasty. It was destroyed in the late Sui dynasty (581-618 CE). The ink rubbing was mounted on a circular piece of silk. Duan Fang wrote an inscription in 1909 and gave it to his niece Tao Zhongchen (‘Xun’ was her other name), mother of Nancy Lee [the donor of this piece]. The inscription reads: ‘(ink rubbing taken from) a tile of Shouchenggong, for niece Xun in fourth moon of the first year of Xuantong (1909), old man Tao’. The two seals read, right: ‘Taozhai cangwa (tile collected by Tao Studio)’, and left: ‘Taoweng (old man Tao)’.
Duan Fang served in many high government appointments, including Governor of Hubei province, Acting Governor-General of Hu-guang (Hunan and Guangdong), and of Liangjiang (in present-day Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi Provinces). A modernising high ranking official of the Qing dynasty, Duan Fang was one of five special commissioners to travel in Western countries in 1906 to observe forms of government. He was a successful official, as well as a renowned collector-connoisseur. In his spare time, he dedicated himself to the activity of collecting and studying Chinese antiquities assembling a great private collection and publishing several important catalogues. As Thomas Lawton puts it, ‘Almost every museum in the world with a Chinese collection contains some artefacts that have passed through Tuan-fang’s hands.’ (Thomas Lawton, 'A Time of Transition: Two Collectors of Chinese Art', The University of Kansas: Spencer Museum of Art, 1991, pp. 5–64).
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, June 2008.