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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1013 

Lot 1013
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Lot 1013
Treasury 5, no.1051 (‘Humble Abode’)

Semi-transparent white glass; with a flat lip and slightly recessed convex oval foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; engraved on one main side with a scholar seated reading a book on a grassy bank with rocks and bamboo behind him, and on the other with the entire text of a well-known essay by Liu Yuxi 劉禹錫 (772 – 842), followed by Shi xinchou qiu Qiqiao ri lu ‘Loushi ming’ yi zhang, Yanbin jushi ke yu Lin’an sushe 時辛丑秋乞巧日,錄《陋室銘》一章,鴈賓居士刻於臨安宿舍 (‘It is the Day of Prayer for Womanly Skills in the autumn of the year xinchou; here is recorded ‘An Inscription for my Humble Cottage’; retired scholar Yanbin engraved it at a lodging house in Lin’an,’ both in cursive script, with one seal of the artist in negative seal script, Zhou
Bottle: possibly Yuanhu 鴛湖 (i.e., Jiaxing 嘉興), Zhejiang province, circa 1901
Decoration: Zhou Honglai 周鴻來, Hangzhou, seventh lunar month of 1901
Height: 5.09 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.7 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd., Hong Kong (1992)

Treasury 5, no.1051

Of the same range of glass as many of Zhou’s works, including Sale 4, lot 21, this example displays an unusual feature in the form of an added foot rim. It is not well carved, however, doubtless explaining why Zhou dispensed with it on many of the blanks from the same glassworks. The subject is very similar to that which we believe to have been inspired by Wang Su (see under Sale 4, lot 21), although here it is reversed, The figure is reading a book, held up in front of him in one hand, and the bamboo in the background has been reduced in scale to a few young plants set beyond the plane of a diagonal bank. As he often does, Zhou has left the white space to act as a background, just as part of the paper was so frequently left blank in literati paintings, allowing the viewer to interpret it as sky, water, or mist depending upon the context. It is typical of literati painting that subjects initially copied with a reasonable degree of accuracy from another, earlier work, are interpreted with increasing freedom each time they are repeated; this may be Wang Su, once removed.

The Day of Prayer for [Womanly] Skills is observed on the sixth or seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar; in 1901, that was 19 or 20 August on the Western calendar. The festival has been celebrated by young girls since the Western Han dynasty. On that night, both newly-wedded brides and spinsters would gather in gardens or courtyards decorated with fruits and toys to play games, light incense sticks, and pray to the Weaving Maid for her blessings in needlework, in marriage, and, for those already married, in childbearing.

One translation of the Liu Yuxi essay was offered in the commentary to Sale 1, lot 99. Here is a revised version:

It is not height that makes a mountain: if it houses immortals, its name will be known. It is not depth that makes a river: if it is home to dragons, it is enchanted. Now, this is but a lowly chamber, but it is fragrant with my virtue! The traces of moss rise upon the steps, with greenish hue; the colour of the grasses enters through the blinds, with verdant glow. For laughter and conversation I have great scholars come; among my companions, no dullards. I can tune my simple zither (qin) and peruse the Diamond Sutra; no cacophony of strings and pipes assaults my hearing, no official paperwork wearies my body. Consider the simple Nanyang cottage where Zhuge Liang withdrew [in the Three Kingdoms period], and in Western Shu the pavilion of Ziyun [the scholar Yang Xiong, 53bce – 18 ce]: as Confucius said, ‘[If a Gentleman dwells therein,] how can it be “lowly”?’


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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