Incense burner in shape of a tripod (li) with design of lotus and with three kinds of fruit (the “three plenties”) on the underside of vessel

Cloisonne incense burner in the shape of a tripod (li). Wooden cover with Yuan dynasty jade hat finial used as a knob.

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Hongzhi or Zhengde reign, 15th or early 16th century; 14th century jade knob
Enamels, brass, wire (cloisonné); with later gilt metal handles, wooden cover with Yuan dynasty jade knob
H x Diam (assembled): 18.4 × 19.4 cm (7 1/4 × 7 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 13: Looking Out, Looking In: Art in Late Imperial China
Cloisonne, Vessel

Incense burner

China, fruit, Hongzhi reign (1488 - 1505), incense, lotus, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), Zhengde reign (1506 - 1521)
Provenance research underway.

Cloisonne incense burner in the shape of a tripod (li). Wooden cover with Yuan dynasty jade hat finial used as a knob.


It was customary to burn incense in front of ancestor portraits or religious paintings as a sign of reverence, and the smoke was a symbolic link between the earthly realm and the heavenly world. This cloisonné incense burner with stylized lotus flowers is of such high quality that it may have been made for use in the imperial palace. Three symbols of luck appear on the underside: a peach for immortality, a pomegranate for numerous heirs, and an orange for good fortune. Cloisonné is made by outlining a design in wires that are soldered onto a metal body and then filling the cells, or cloisons, with powdered enamel. After firing, the enamel becomes glasslike.

The wooden cover, which is later than the incense burner, has a jade knob made from a Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) hat finial.

Published References
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. .
  • Gloria K. Fiero. The Humanistic Tradition. 6 vols., , 5th ed. New York. .
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 110, vol. 1: p. 176.
  • Chinese Cloisonne: The Claque Collection. Pheonix, AZ. p. 24.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 28.
  • Helmut Brinker, Albert Lutz. Chinese Cloisonne: The Pierre Uldry Collection. Exh. cat. New York. p. 100.
  • Caroline Blunden, Mark Elvin. Cultural Atlas of China. New York. p. 140.
  • Michael Sullivan. The Arts of China., 3rd ed. Berkeley. p. 216.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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