Round covered box, wood with thick red lacquer

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 15th century
H x W: 3.8 x 11 cm (1 1/2 x 4 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), peony, qilin
Provenance research underway.

Carved lacquer was highly esteemed at the fifteenth-century Ming court. Some of the most popular designs featured dense floral imagery and shared an overall sensibility with contemporary textiles, as well as with some decorated porcelains, especially those with reserve painted images. Textile designs appear to have influenced many Ming court arts.

The rich red surface of the lacquer here suggests careful polishing to create a mellow effect. A bottom layer of mustard-yellow lacquer seen here is also observed in many early and mid-Ming lacquers. The motif of a mythical qilin-an animal with composite features including the scales of a dragon and the hooves of a deer-symbolized a wish for the birth of sons. Associating the image with peonies, the flower of nobility and wealth, added a layer of meaning that was a portent for the sons to have great character and be successful.

Published References
  • Chinese Dynasties. .
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 59.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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