Zhou Honglai, 1903 (the bottle possibly Yuanhu, Zhejiang province, circa 1903) 5.09cm high.
Treasury 5, no. 1054
白玻璃刻雙梅圖鼻煙壺 壺： 或作於浙江省鴛湖，約1903年 雕刻： 周鴻來，1903年
Translucent white glass; with a flat lip and protruding footrim; engraved on one main side with two boughs of blossoming prunus, inscribed in cursive script 'In the intercalary month of the year kuimao of the Guangxu period, Xilu sent this gift from Yuanhu to his fellow student, Youmei, the prefect of Jinan. Yanbin jushi did the engraving', with one seal of the artist in positive seal script, Zhou, the other main side with an inscription, also in cursive script, followed by 'Engraved by Zhou Honglai, [alias] Yanbin, of Baimen at the request of Mr. Youmei', with one seal of the artist in positive seal script, Zhou Bottle: possibly Yuanhu, Zhejiang province, circa 1903 Decoration: Zhou Honglai, 1903 Height: 5.09 cm Mouth/lip: 0.59/1.54 cm Stopper: glass; gilt-silver collar
Condition: lip rough from manufacturing process; outer lip and upper neck-rim perhaps reduced slightly to remove small chips, no longer visible; tiny chips possibly removed from outer footrim, but it may be part of the original manufacturing process, as Zhou's glass blanks were not usually particularly carefully made
Provenance: Hugh M. Moss Ltd, Hong Kong (1985)
Published: JICSBS, Spring 1982, back cover Kleiner 1987, no. 134 Treasury 5, no. 1054
Exhibited: Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987 Creditanstalt, Vienna, May-June 1993
Commentary: Depicted on one of Zhou Honglai's standard-shaped bottles, this is among his most impressive prunus-blossom subjects, displaying two mature boughs superbly composed and balanced, accompanied by his customary elegant cursive script. It also bears an inscription that suggests a possible source for Zhou's blanks, since the blank bottle is noted as being sent from Yuanhu, in Zhejiang province.
The intercalary month in the twenty-ninth year of the Guangxu reign was an extra fifth month and corresponds to 25 June23 July 1903. Youmei is very likely to be Xu Shiguang (18591929; one source gives 1924), who had been named prefect at Jinan in 1902 (He Husheng 1999, p. 604) and must have still been there; Youmei was his zi. Xu Shiguang's brother, Xu Shichang, was president of the country from 1918 to 1922, though he was of course unsuccessful in mediating between the factions pulling the country apart. We provisionally declare Xilu to be Shao Songnian (18481923 or 1924), a calligrapher and an important collector of paintings and calligraphy. We have not found direct evidence connecting Shao with Xu, but he is the only known contemporary of Xu who used the name Xilu, and his age, prominence, and cultural level are appropriate.
The inscription is a piece by Zhongzhang Tong (179220) found in his biography in the Later Han Documents. It reads:
Let me have good fields and a spacious mansion, with hills behind and a stream in front, ditches and ponds on all sides, and bamboo and trees everywhere, a vegetable garden constructed in front and fruit trees planted behind. Riding in a boat or a carriage would suffice to replace wading and walking; issuing orders would suffice to rest my four limbs from their labours. I would care for my parents in such a way that they enjoyed a variety of precious foods; my wife and servants would be free of arduous toil. When good friends would congregate, and I would set out wine and delicacies to give them pleasure; when festival days came, I would sacrifice lambs and pigs in offering. I would linger in the garden laid out there and loiter in the forest stretching across the land. I would wash in clear water, pursue a cool breeze, hook a swimming carp, and shoot a high-flying goose. I would chant under the altar where we pray for rain and sing about the return from my excursions in a lofty hall. I would put my spirit at rest in a small chamber and ponder the profound meanings of Laozi; I would do breathing exercises to make my essence harmonious and seek to be the likeness of the perfected ones. With enlightened philosophers I would discuss the Way and discourse on books, gaze up at heaven and down at earth, and sort the complexities of people and things. I would play the elegant tune of the 'Southern Breeze' and make wonderful music with the clearest notes. I would soar with leisure above the world, survey everything existing between heaven and earth, escape the blame of the people of the time, and live out the duration of my life. And in such way I would mount to the Milky Way and go beyond space and time. Why would I envy the chance to enter the gate of an emperor or prince?