An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest with zitan stand, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706
Lot 314
An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706
HK$ 3 million - 5 million
US$ 390,000 - 640,000

Lot Details
An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest with zitan stand, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706 An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest with zitan stand, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706 An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest with zitan stand, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706 An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest with zitan stand, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706 An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest with zitan stand, by Zhou Bin Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706
An extremely rare and exquisite 'bai furong' ink rest, by Zhou Bin
Kangxi, dated early summer of 1706
The stone of an attractive semi-translucent ivory white colour, exquisitely carved in a rectangular shape and worked on all sides in extraordinary detail, the upper surface intricately incised with an elaborate bafenshu inscription, the reverse with finely worked taotie, ruyi-head and C-scroll motifs, flanked at the sides with further archaistics scrolls, four-character inscription bingxu chuxia corresponding to the early summer of 1706, the reverse with a Zhou Bin zuogu signature of the carver and subject matter, all supported on an exquisitely carved zitan stand with four compressed globular feet at the ends, the central reticulated panel framing a bamboo shoot issuing offsprings of bamboo with leaves, the sides with alternating inverted ruyi-head scrolls.
6.7cm long (2).

Footnotes

  • Zhou Bin, alias Shang Jun, born in Zhangzhou, Fujian province is arguably the most accomplished and historically renowned soapstone carver. Although little is known of his exact dates, it is known that he lived during the early Qing dynasty and was an active soapstone carver during the Kangxi period. Zhou Bin's craftsmanship is complemented by the best quality soapstone utilised by him, demonstrable in the exquisite and rare 'baifurong' soapstone utilised here. 'Baifurong' first gained popularity in the late Ming dynasty and became a symbol of quality, especially in the early Qing period.

    Throughout the Qing period, Zhou Bin's craftsmanship was appreciated by the scholar class where he expressed himself within their aesthetic. The painter Wu Changshuo (1844-1927) once admired a carved soapstone seal with inscription by Zhou Bin where he commented, "This stone was carved by Zhou Shangjun, we should especially treasure it". Only a small number of masterpieces by Zhou Bin is recorded in museums and private collections, of which the current lot is arguably one of the rarest. The baifurong stone retains a tranquil ivory white tone; the carving of the inscription and taotie motif is simple yet strong and supple as well as superbly executed.

    The incised inscription on the current lot can be translated and summarise as:

    There is an old saying that,
    One should always hold their tongue and mind their own matters.
    When in joyous occasions, one must keep composure.
    It is clear to others what we are doing,
    so even the smallest issue will have future repercussions.
    Once trouble arises, one must resolve immediately;
    this is the secret to success and happiness.
    Those with greed and aggressiveness,
    will meet a lot of enemies and will have bad endings.
    One should be generous with good deeds to gain respect.
    To be humble is to be less competitive.
    Keep ones abilities within, so no one will think ill of me.

    The inscription is titled 'Jinrenming' and originally derived from the 'Analects', the compilation of philosophical thoughts and moral teachings from Confucius. Is is believed to have been in existence since the Warring States and achieved its final complete form during the Han dynasty. 'Analects' had been one of the most widely read writings for the past two thousand years in Chinese history and has become a cornerstone of traditional values which has substantially influenced future generations.

    The inscription is titled 'Jinrenming' and originally derived from 'Analects', the compilation of philosophical thoughts and moral teachings from Confucius. Is is believed to have been in existence since the Warring States and achieved its final complete form during the Han dynasty. 'Analects' had been one of the most widely read writings for the past two thousand years in Chinese history and has become a cornerstone of traditional values which has substantially influenced future generations.

    In his definitive work on soapstone, Shoushanshi Zhi or 'Records of Shoushan Stone' Fujian, 1982, Fang Zonggui expounds that Zhou Bin's work encapsulated the technique of xieyi, the thin and low-relief painterly style of carving. Xieyi literally translates as 'idea painting', but in the eyes of the literati, through its association with a free, expressionist style, it transcended the medium of sculpture and became associated with the higher art of painting, thereby association with a free, expressionist style. This transcended the medium itself and became associated with the higher art of painting, thereby assuming the potential for profundity. Besides mentioning the sheer technical skill that is evident in the current lot, Fang also refers to Zhou Bin's work as being simple and rustic, a compliment reserved only for the highest levels of literati painting and calligraphy. Fundamentally, in the eyes of the literati, the important impression from a masterpiece of Zhou Bin, such as the current lot, is not only just the quality of the carving or the stone, but the deeper meaning conveyed through the profundity of his expression.

    Ink rests are prized as the ideal facility on scholar's desk for placing ground and unfinished inkcakes when writing a calligraphy. The use of ink rests were greatly admired by the Emperors who usually associated themselves with a strong preference for scholarly connoisseurship and antiquity. Extant ink rests produced by the palace workshops are in a variety of materials. For an example of an ink rest worked from white jade from the Qing court collection, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Small Refined Articles of the Study. The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum, Shanghai, 2009, p.147, no.127. See also a Ming dynasty ink rest similar in form but with jade inlay from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Through the Prism of the Past: Antiquarian Trends in Chinese Art of the 16th to 18th Century, Taipei, 2004, p.38, pl.I-10.

    清康熙四十五年 壽山白芙蓉石「金人铭」詩文墨床

    「周彬倣古」、「丙戌初夏」款

    墨床由壽山芙蓉石雕製,石質上佳,半透明感,溫潤細膩,結潤純淨,猶如白蠟。長方形身,一面淺浮雕飾仿古變形夔龍紋,圖案分為五層,頂部為兩龍頭相對,主題龍身由兩組如意頭四瓣花紋及如意雲頭紋組成。另一面以八分書陰刻詩文「金人銘」,刀法嫻熟洗練,字體工整有力。墨床兩側分別雕兩變形螭龍紋相對,中間飾一卷草紋。器頂部及底部分別陰刻楷書「丙戌初夏」、「周彬做古」款,款識兩旁飾卷草紋。

    此墨床壽山石選料極佳,白芙蓉即白壽山,其中品質上乘者常被稱為白蠟,其石質細嫩,外觀與壽山各坑洞所產區別明顯。白芙蓉初產於明末清初,乾隆稍後漸著名於世,光緒年間被譽為「印石三寶」之一。

    周彬,字尚均,清康熙年間福建漳州人,擅長印鈕雕刻,有「尚均鈕」之稱,其壽山石雕刻技藝與楊玉璇齊名。相傳康熙間,周彬曾招為「御工」,供奉宮廷。其作品深受文人所愛,清徐子晉《前塵夢影錄》曾有雲:「印製鈕以尚均製作為第一。」晚清海上派畫家吳昌碩(1844 – 1927)曾有周彬印一方,並刻上邊款,非常珍重。周彬為壽山石「薄意」雕法始祖,方宗珪曾認為周彬將中國繪畫寫意技法雕刻刀法趣味完美結合亦乃「薄意」雕法之先身。(方宗珪,《壽山石志》,福州,1982年,頁78)。周彬所作器物在有記錄的傳世品中稀缺少見,此墨床為無疑為周彬作壽山石雕中最難得作品之一。

    所刻詩文曰:「古之慎言人也,戒之哉!無多言,多言多敗;無多事,多事多患。安樂必戒,無行所悔。勿謂何傷,其禍將長;勿謂何害,其禍將大;勿謂何殘,其禍將然;勿謂莫聞,天妖伺人;熖熖不滅,炎炎若何;涓涓不壅,終為江河;綿綿不絕,或為網羅;毫末不札,將尋斧柯;誠能慎之,福之根也;曰是何傷?禍之門也。強梁者不得其死,好勝者必遇其敵;盜憎主人,民怨其上。君子知天下之不可上也,故下之;知衆人之不可先也,故後之。溫恭慎德,使人慕之。執雌持下,人莫逾之。人皆趨彼,我獨守此;人皆惑之,我獨不徙;內藏我知,不示人技;我雖尊高,人莫我害。江海雖左,長於百川,以其下也;天道無親,常與善人。戒之哉!」

    所刻詩文為《金人銘》,原文出自《孔子家語•觀周》,據史料考證,爲《漢書•藝文志》中《黃帝銘》六篇中之《金人銘》據。《金文銘》原文載劉向《說苑•敬慎篇》,《孔子家語•觀周》所載版本僅有幾字不同,但語義表達更加清晰,系後抄《說苑》所編。劉向在漢成帝河平三年(公元前26年)以光祿大夫之職受詔校經傳諸子詩賦,遍覽皇室藏書,所著《說苑》保存了大量先秦史料。1973年河北定縣40號漢墓出土了一批竹簡,其中有先秦古籍《儒家者言》,許多內容見于《說苑》,可說明《說苑》所著史料真實可靠。另外也有學者認為,通過對照《金人銘》與《老子》,可知其為《老子》哲學思想源頭。銘文通過形象比喻及清晰邏輯,闡述並告誡做人道德及哲理。

    墨床是文人墨客研磨後用於放置濕墨的案台陳設。墨床使用盛行於宮廷,清宮造辦處所製墨床材質多樣,造型豐富,裝飾多彩。見北京故宮博物院清宮舊藏一件清碧玉鑲白玉墨床,鄭珉中編,《故宮博物院藏文物珍品大系:文玩》,上海,2009,頁147,圖版127。另見台北國立故宮博物院藏一件明代嵌玉墨床,雖為不同材質製作,但其明代風格墨床形制與本件拍品類似,國立故宮博物院,《古色:十六至十八世紀藝術的仿古風》,台北,2004,頁38,圖版I-10。
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