Lidded incense burner (xianglu) with geometric decoration and narrative scenes

Historical period(s)
Early Western Han dynasty, ca. 2nd century BCE
Bronze with gold, silver, turquoise, and carnelian inlay
H x W: 17.9 x 10 cm (7 1/16 x 3 15/16 in)
China, Henan or Hebei province
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: incense burner

animal, China, Daoism, incense, landscape, Western Han dynasty (206 BCE - 9 CE)

Before 1947
Jun Tsei Tai (1911-1992), Shanghai, China to February 1949 then New York, NY [1]

Lu Wu Antiques Co., Shanghai, China purchased from Jun Tsei Tai in Shanghai [2]

February 1947
C. T. Loo & Company, New York, by transfer from Lu Wu Antiquities Co. in February 1947 in Shanghai, China [3]

From July 1947
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company in July 1947 [4]


[1] Jun Tsei Tai (more commonly known in the West as J. T. Tai), known also as Dai Fubao in Shanghai, was an incredibly successful art dealer who was initially based in Shanghai China. Tai became one of C. T. Loo's most prolific suppliers in the 1940s. In 1949, however, J. T. Tai fled with his family to Hong Kong, when Communist leaders came into power. In 1950, he immigrated to New York City, where he established J. T. Tai & Company, a successful company that specialized in the sale of Chinese arts.

See C. T. Loo's stock card no. NYL-7/982: "Bronze hill-censer on a wide spreading foot with three dragons in relief inlaid with gold, silver and various stones. Body decorated with bands of abstract motives in gold, silver with turquoise and rubies. Cover with fine rows of hills with hunting scenes, fighting animals and birds in gold, silver and hard stones inlaid, many stones missing Late Chou," copy in object file. The card states that this object came from J. T. Tai.

[2] Lu Wu was an export business that supplied C. T. Loo & Company, New York and Paris with Chinese objects. Loo formed this company in 1926. The name, Lu Wu combines the names of C. T. Loo and Wu Qi Zhou, Lu Wu's primary associates. The business acquired objects from across China, but everything passed through Shanghai before being sent to France. Zhou and Laio would send all acquisitions to Shanghai, where Wu packaged and shipped them to France. J. T. Tai (see note 1) began working with Lu Wu around 1938. Tai operated Fuyun zhai guwandian, a shop with a large inventory in Shanghai.

[3] See C. T. Loo & Company stock card cited in note 1.

[4] See C. T. Loo & Company invoice, date July 8, 1947, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

C.T. Loo 1880-1957
Lu Wu Antiques Co. 1911-ca. 1949
Jun Tsei Tai 1911-1992
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948

Published References
  • Robert Dale Jacobsen. Inlaid Bronzes of Pre-Imperial China: A Classical Tradition and Its Later Revivals. 2 vols. Ann Arbor. pls. 218-219.
  • Michael Sullivan. A Short History of Chinese Art. Berkeley. fig. 17.
  • Michael Sullivan. An Introduction to Chinese Art. Los Angeles and Berkeley, CA. fig. A3.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. vol. 1: pl. 14.
  • Susan N. Erickson. The Freer Gallery of Art Boshanlu: Answers to A.G. Wenley's Questions. fig. 1.
  • Michel Beurdeley. L'amateur chinois des Han au XXe siecle. Aspects de l'art Fribourg. pl. 2.
  • Jeannine Auboyer, Roger Goepper. The Oriental World. Landmarks of the World's Art New York. pl. 58.
  • Archibald Gibson Wenley. The Question of the po-shan-hsiang-lu. vol. 3 Honolulu, 1948-1949. pp. 5-12.
  • Susan N. Erickson. Boshanlu: Mountain Censers of the Western Han Period: A Typological and Critical Analysis. vol. 42 New York and Honolulu, HI. pp. 6-28.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 21.
  • Joe Dan Lowry, Joe P. Lowry. Turquoise: The World Story of a Fascinating Gemstone. Layton, Utah. p. 26.
  • Capolavori nei secoli: Enciclopedia di tutte i popoli in tutti i tempi. 12 vols., Milan, 1961 - 1964. p. 26.
  • Michael Loewe, Eva Wilson. Everyday Life in Early Imperial China: During the Han Period, 202 BC-AD 220. Indianapolis. p. 47, fig. 11.
  • Vincent Virga, Library of Congress. Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations., 1st ed. New York. p. 53, pl. 42.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 68-69.
  • Rene Grousset. Chinese Art and Culture. New York. p. 72.
  • Charles Patrick Fitzgerald. The Horizon History of China. New York. p. 76.
  • Tseng Yu. Lung hu tou [char]. no. 42 Taipei, September 1986. p. 85.
  • Michele Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens. The Han Dynasty. New York. p. 95.
  • John Keay. The Spice Route. London. p. 137.
  • Robert K.G. Temple. China: Land of Discovery. Willingborough. p. 179.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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