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HOME : Chinese Art : Qing Dynasty (Ching) : A Rose Quartz Ceremonial Incense Burner
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A Rose Quartz Ceremonial Incense Burner - JL.006
Circa: 1644 AD to 1922 AD
Dimensions: 10" (25.4cm) high x 10" (25.4cm) wide x 6" (15.2cm) depth
Collection: Chinese Art
Style: Qing Dynasty / Ching
Medium: Rose Quartz
Condition: Very Fine

Location: Great Britain
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Hardstone carving is one of the oldest arts in China. The earliest known evidence recovered through archaeology is agate earrings of the prehistoric Majiabang culture that date to the fifth millennium B.C. It was not until the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911) that the combination of an abundant supply of raw material, extraordinary craftsmanship, and keen imperial patronage spurred an efflorescence. While carving tools improved over the ages, the techniques first developed in Neolithic times remained little changed. The fundamental working principle was the gradual wearing away of the unwanted parts of the stone, whether it was to separate the gem from the stony crust, to cut it into a rough shape, to work it into the final form, or to polish it to a lustrous finish. During the early part of the Qing dynasty steady economic growth led to widespread prosperity while successful military campaigns not only brought political stability but also secured key trade routes in the west of the country. As a result large quantities of gemstones were brought to China over the Silk Road or by maritime routes from as far as Europe. Workshops in cities like Suzhou and Yangzhou flourished as the imperial patronage of the Qing court contributed significantly to the carving art. During the reigns of emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong, workshops were established in the palace that employed large numbers of master carvers. Inventory records of the Qing imperial jade workshops alone document monthly acquisitions of numerous semi-precious stones. Meanwhile, the lapidary craft, which for more than a millennia had suffered frequent interruptions due to regime changes and devastating wars, was revived. According to the records of the imperial jade workshops, the emperors not only set exacting standards of quality but also gave detailed instructions on subject matter and style. This incense burner seems a fine example of the skilled workmanship of Qing dynasty craftsmen. Carved from rose quartz the piece can be read as endemic to the profusion of hard- stone carving which defines the prolific Qing production period. Notably this piece prominently features three dragons - which are generally understood as symbolising the emperor - and thus suggesting an owner. The two dragons on the lower half of the piece are robustly carved with etched detailing and no major deformities. This piece is particularly notable for the elaborate knob which surmounts the cover - This skilfully carved curled dragon is perceptibly similar to the azure dragon which was eventually adopted in the late 19th century as the official flag of the Qing dynasty. - (JL.006)


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