Lot 178 Lot 179 Lot 180 Lot 181 Lot 182 Lot 183 Lot 184

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 181 

Lot 181

Lot 181
Treasury 2, no. 288 (‘Dancing With The Lotus’)

Dendritic chalcedony; well hollowed, with a concave lip and a recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; the natural markings in the stone edited on one side to create a scene of the two immortals known as the Hehe erxian dancing among lotus plants, one holding a box from which emerges a cloud of vapour
Official School, 1760–1860
Height: 5.8 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.70/2.00 and 1.90 cm (oval)
Stopper: lapis-lazuli; silver collar

Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 162
1987 Exhibition Poster, London
The Illustrated London News, Summer 1990, p. 48
The Orient Express Magazine, Summer 1990, p. 48
Prestige, Summer 1990, p. 48
JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p. 8
Treasury 2, no. 288

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

The Hehe erxian enjoy a rather flexible mythology. Some sources cite a single individual while others recognize them as two separate individuals, the more common interpretation in later arts including the snuff bottle. The more popular version has them as the seventh-century monks Hanshan and Shide, also sometimes depicted together in their mortal guise where one holds a besom (twig broom). The term hehe, literally means ‘to be united in harmony’, hence the image of two male immortals, their identity made clear by a lotus plant (hehua or lianhua but in this case, the former) and a covered box (hezi), their trademark attributes, chosen obviously for phonetic reasons. Pictures depicting the Hehe immortals were always hung on the walls of reception halls (where wedding ceremonies might be conducted) and in the bedrooms of the nuptials because they were believed to be able to safeguard a harmonious marital life.

This is another of the more powerful silhouette bottles of the Official School where superb clarity of design is matched by artistic imagination and where a great deal of the scene is edited by cutting through and removing parts of a very thin plane of darker colour. The treatment of the faces here again links it to the broad group of figural bottles referred to under Sale 1, lot 49, but is unusually animated and whimsical, giving the deities delightful personalities.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s


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