• Important Chinese Lacquer from auction at Christies

    Sale 2730

    Important Chinese Lacquer from the Lee Family Collection

    1 December 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1821


    Price Realised  


    YONGLE PERIOD (1403-1425)

    One side of each panel slightly arched and finely engraved and gilded in qiangjin technique in the centre with the triple 'flaming' jewel, triratna, raised on an amrita vase which is flanked by four of the bajixiang supported by a cushion nestled in a lotus blossom borne on a scrolling and enclosing leafy tendril, the four Buddhist emblems on the cover include the Wheel of the Law, dharmachakra, umbrella, double fish and vase of immortality, those on the bottom board are the canopy, conch, lotus flower and endless knot, within a narrow band of detached flower sprigs and an outer band of lotus lappets, all within raised borders, the sides decorated with lotus scroll, the reverse of the top cover also inscribed in qiangjin with a large lotus petal cartouche enclosing an inscription in Chinese and Tibetan characters
    28 3/4 in. (73 cm.) long, box (2)

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    From the Chinese inscription, the present covers were for the third volume of the Avatamsaka sutra.

    Compare the pair of similar covers, dated ca. 1410, published by J.C.Y. Watt and B.B. Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1991, pp. 116-7, where the authors note that these lacquered covers provide the earliest examples of Ming style qiangjin work. Developed during the Southern Song period, qiangjin is a technique where channels carved into a lacquer groove are then filled with gold leaf or powder. The covers demonstrate an evolution in this technique from a more sharply cut free-form incision with a straight-edged instrument to a U-shaped groove produced with a channelling tool resulting in evenly spaced incisions.

    In 1410 the Yongle Emperor commissioned the printing of the Kanjur (bKa'-'gyur), the Tibetan Buddhist canon, which consisted of 108 volumes. Subsequently, manuscript covers were made for sets of the Kanjur. One set was presented to the abbott of the Sa-skya monastary, Kun-brkas-pa, when he visited Nanjing in 1414, and was stored in the monastery in Tibet until the Cultural Revolution when it was moved to the Potala Palace. The decoration on the covers of the Sa-skya set are very similar to that of the Irving set, as well as the present set. According to Watt and Ford, op. cit., the covers for a set presented to the Sera monastary in 1416 appears to be similar but less elaborate.
    Other sets are illustrated in 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and the Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1993, no. 79 and by R.D. Jacobsen, Appreciating China, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002, no. 48.


    Zhongguo Qiqi Quanji, Fujian meishu chubanshe, 1995, pp. 28-29, no. 29


    The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, 1990, Dragon and Phoenix, Chinese Lacquer Ware, The Lee Family Collection, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 77 Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990/91
    The Shoto Museum of Art, Shibuya, Japan, 1991, Chinese Lacquerware, Catalogue, no. 114