A carved cinnabar lacquer box and cover Qianlong
Lot 227
A carved cinnabar lacquer box and cover Qianlong
Sold for HK$ 84,000 (US$ 10,832) inc. premium
Lot Details
A carved cinnabar lacquer box and cover
Of square section with rounded corners, the flat top deeply carved with the scene of the poet Su Dongpo, Huang Tianjian, monk Foyin and an attendant, being rowed by an oarsman towards the Red Cliff, depicted as a steep, craggy rockface punctuated by trees, shrubs and vines with the full moon in the distance, all the details crispy raised against diaper grounds representing air and water, the scene framed by a key-fret border, the straight sides of the box and cover rendered with a honeycomb diaper incorporating florettes, the interior and base lacquered dark-brown.
7.8cm (7in) square. (2).


  • The subject matter of the present lot is based on Su Dongpo's rhapsodic essay, Preface to the Ode to the Red Cliff (qian Chibi fu), in which he describes in great detail an outing made to the Red Cliff with two companions, calligrapher Huang Tingjian and Buddhist monk Foyin, during a full moon night in the seventh lunar month of the year 1082.

    A painting by Jin dynasty artist Wu Yuanzhi, currently in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrates this scene perfectly. In the painting, Su and his companions are being ferried by an oarsman on swirling waters, with the Red Cliff towering over them. The rocky landscape is punctuated by gnarly pine trees, which bend indicating the presence of a light breeze.

    In the current lot, the main elements are all present. Su is shown in a gauze hat, and Foyin's shaven head is clearly visible. There is an oarsman, and an attendant making tea on the bow of the boat. The water reeds all bend indicating a light breeze and the Red Cliff towers above the boat, its top shrouded by clouds and extending out of the frame. The full moon hangs in the distance.

    The diaper pattern representing the air appears as a series of ripples and according to Derek Clifford in Chinese Carved Lacquer, London, 1992, p. 55, may have evolved from a design meant to represent clouds. When compared to the clouds that appear in the present lot, this similarity can indeed be seen. Water, in the present lot is represented as a repetitive geometric design made up of a series of consecutive triangles. This became to convention for representing water by the Qing dynasty.

    A Qianlong period jade boulder in the Palace Museum, Beijing, has a very similar portrayal of this scene to the present lot, and is illustrated by Liu Yang in Translucent World: Chinese Jade from the Forbidden City, Sydney, 2000, no. 155, pp. 220-221.

    清乾隆 剔紅赤壁夜遊圖方蓋盒

Saleroom notices

  • Estimate should read HK$75,000-85,000