Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Yongle reign, 1403-1424
Carved red lacquer (tihong) on wood core
H x W: 7.9 x 26.6 cm (3 1/8 x 10 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


China, crane, landscape, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), pavilion, pine tree, sage, Yongle reign (1403 - 1424)

From at least 1949 to 1953
F. Low-Beer & Co., New York, N.Y., from at least May 1949 [1]

From 1953
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Fritz Low-Beer (1906-1976) on April 1, 1953 [2]


[1] Fritz Low-Beer offered the box to the Freer Gallery of Art for acquisition consideration in his correspondence with John A. Pope, Assistant Director, Freer Gallery of Art, see F. Low-Beer to J.A. Pope, May 2, 1949. It was approved for purchase in March 1950, see document confirming the examination of the object and approval by the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, the Commission of Fine Arts, and Katherine Rhoades, dated to March 1950, copy in object file.

[2] See Fritz Low-Beer & Co.’s invoice, dated to March 23, 1953, where the object is listed as “Circular box and cover, carved red lacquer decorated with a figural scene on top of the cover and with flowers and foliage on the side. Early 15th century, probably Yung-lo,” copy in objet file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Fritz Low-Beer 1906-1976


Two seated gentlemen enjoy this garden setting, which is imbued with symbols of longevity such as a pine tree and the fungus of immortality (at the lower left). In front of the pavilion, large rocks are arranged to imitate a mountain with a cavelike doorway, an allusion to a paradise of the immortals that is entered through a grotto. The man holding a wand may be a Daoist sage and his visitor a disciple seeking the secrets of immortality. As soon as the student becomes an immortal, the swooping crane will carry him heavenward to join other transcendent beings.

The precisely carved geometric patterns in the background--a different one for air, water, and land--are hallmarks of the exemplary workmanship of early fifteenth-century lacquer ware.

Published References
  • Celia Heil. Lacquer Across the Oceans: Independent Invention or Diffusion?. .
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 116, vol. 1: p. 177.
  • Lacquer: An International History and Illustrated Survey. New York. p. 39.
  • Harry Mason Garner. Two Chinese Carved Lacquer Boxes of Fifteenth Century in The Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 9 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 41-50.
  • William C. Ketchum. Boxes. Smithsonian Illustrated Library of Antiques New York. p. 76.
  • Nicole de Bisscop, W.G. de Kesel. Chinees Lakwerk. Zutphen. p. 95.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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