We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Bamboo brush pot decorated with engraving of a bearded man holding a fishing rod

18th century-19th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    18th century-19th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    10.5 x 4.5 cm
    Gift of John Yu, in memory of George Soutter 2012. Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program.
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The engraved poem reads very similar to the work of Zhang Qi of the 9th century. The inscription of ‘Tian Xing Ke’ (engraved by Tian Xing) refers to Wu Songshan, who was a student of bamboo carving master Zhou Hao. Zhou was a native of Jia Ding of Jiangsu province, active in the bamboo carving field between 1736 and 1820.

    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.

  • Places

    Where the work was made