Cylindrical container

Artist: Zhang Xihuang (early-mid 17th century or later)
Historical period(s)
Ming or Qing dynasty, 17th century or possibly mid-19th century
H x W (overall): 12.3 x 5.4 cm (4 13/16 x 2 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


China, landscape, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
Provenance research underway.

Chinese scholars admired objects made of bamboo. This small cylinder may have been used by a scholar wanting to send a friend a poem or a slip of writing, which he would roll up and place inside the bamboo tube. Another possible use for this container was as a brush holder.

Using a tiny scalpel, Zhang Xihuang carved the design into the skin of a freshly cut piece of bamboo; where he scraped away the green skin, the exposed surface aged to a tawny brown and the remaining skin turned buff. Zhang carved the scene of a garden as an earthly paradise. In carving the long poem on the bamboo tube, Zhang imitated every nuance of brushwriting, including the thin ligatures between strokes in the fluid style of calligraphy used. He also carved two simulated seal impressions, which reproduce the effect of the name seals that painters use on works on paper. 

The lifedates of Zhang Xihuang are currently under debate by scholars.

Published References
  • Simon Kwan. Ming and Qing Bamboo. Hong Kong. .
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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