Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information, including hours




Asian art

View More:


Bamboo brush pot decorated with a bearded man in a boat and a poem in low relief

19th century-20th century


Unknown Artist


Both the scene and the poem suggest the theme of the story of 'Evening Cruise under the Red Cliff' (even though with modifications of some words from the original poem by Huang Shen (1687-1772)). According to the tale a famous Song dynasty (1127-1279) poet, Su Shi ,visited Chi Bi (Red Cliff), a battlefield during the Three Kingdoms period (220-265), and wrote two important classic poems in Chinese literature that for generations up to current day are still taught at schools nation wide.

This poem reads: “ An old fisherman sits on the Cang Jiang river, the scenery reminded him of the Three Wu [names of places in lower Yangtze river region].”

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.


Place where the work was made



19th century-20th century

Media category


Materials used



16.2 x 9.5 cm


Gift of John Yu, in memory of George Soutter 2012. Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program.


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made