An inscribed white and turquoise-blue glass snuff bottle
Yangzhou School, probably Li Junting, dated 1819 6.13cm high.
Treasury 5, no. 1021
Li Junting's Rosetta Stone
Translucent white and turquoise-blue glass with an inner layer of more greenish turquoise colour; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flattened footrim; carved as a single overlay with a continuous landscape scene, the rocky ground with, on one main side, a boy squatting while tending two horses beneath a bare willow tree, with two swallows flying above, inscribed in relief seal script, 'Precious collection of Mr. Li of Jingjiang, [in the] twelfth month of the year jimao', and on the other with a crane, its beak open, flying above an old man holding a gnarled walking staff beside a clump of lingzhi, his servant standing nearby next to another crane, with a seal in relief, positive seal script, Junting Li Weizhi, 1879 (Note: We formerly ascribed this to a Li Junting and interpreted the year as equivalent to 1819; we now think it may have been made at the behest of the late nineteenth-century Yangzhou philanthropist Li Weizhi, but the evidence is still being re-evaluated) Height: 6.13 cm Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.49 cm Stopper: jadeite; gilt bronze collar Condition: miniscule, shallow chip in outer footrim (greatest extent less than 0.1 cm). General relative condition: apart from the tiny chip, in studio condition
Exhibited: British Museum, London, June-October 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July-November 1997
Commentary: Referring to this bottle in Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, p. 650, we dubbed it the 'Rosetta Stone' of the school attributed to Yangzhou. It is inscribed unambiguously with a date, and that it was made for the 'precious collection' of Mr. Li of Jingjiang, the seal consisting of the zi (personal name), Junting. Under Treasury 5, no. 1011 we cited a rare vase, also made by Li Junting, with a seal on the base stating that it was made for Weizhi. We now know that there was a Yangzhou philanthropist named Li Weizhi with the zi Junting or, read properly, Yunting. Like several Chinese characters, jun has more than one reading; in this case, it is also an ancient form of yun, 'resonance', and can be read with that pronunciation. On Treasury 5, no. 1024, we find the name written with the standard yun: 'For the enjoyment of Yunting himself'.
Li Weizhi was a native of Dantu and set up a silk factory in Zhenjiang, right across the Yangtze River from Yangzhou, in 1895. Jingjiang, which this bottle tells us is Li's native place, is an old name for both Dantu (now a district of Zhenjiang) and Zhenjiang. Despite the strong association of this style of glass snuff bottle with Yangzhou, it is possible that Li Weizhi had his bottles made in Zhenjiang. Whatever the case, our new knowledge of Li Yunting's identity enables us to reassess the bottles we have been ascribing to the 'Li Junting school'; we are engaged in that process and shall soon be making a full report to the snuff-bottle world.