Meriem Collection Sale One / 704

The Meriem Collection. Lot 704

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One of ovoid form with recessed foot and waisted neck,
decorated around the sides with a lengthy poem extolling the
virtues of tea and dated to the bingyin year (1746), between
bands of ruyi heads reserved in white on a blue band above and
below, coral stopper with metal collar; the second of ovoid
form with recessed foot, decorated with a scholar and an
attendant carrying a wrapped qin in a garden setting, all against
a crackled beige ground, tourmaline stopper with jadeite collar
6.7 cm. and 4.1 cm. high (2)

P R O V E N A N C E :
The bottle with the tea poem: Elisabeth and Ladislas Kardos.
The bottle with the painted landscape: Sidney Hoare.
E X H I B I T E D :
Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, 1992.

The inscription on the first bottle is taken from Sanqingcha, a poem
composed by the Qianlong Emperor on the merits of drinking his “three
scents tea” (Sanqingcha), which were of plum blossoms, finger citron
and pine nuts.

The inscription has been translated by Ka Bo Tsang as:

“The color of prunus blossoms is not bewitching.
The Buddha’s hand citron is fragrant and clean.
Pine nuts have an agreeable scent and rich flavor.
All three are exceedingly pure.
[I] boil them in a tea-warmer with short curved legs.
Pouring in snow gathered in a bamboo basket.
[I] judge by the intensity of the heat by the [sizes] of the bubbles,
[whether they resemble the eyes of] a fish [or] a crab.
The steam now rising, now dissipating from the pot.
Into a Yue ware bowl [I] pour a milky liquid [fit for] the immortals.
Sitting on a felt rug beside the tea stove I am filled with
The joy of the mystic trance.
[My heart is at] peace when the five substances are purified.
[This experience] can only be felt; it cannot be described.
As the fragrant cotton-white [liquid] is passed around,
The bubbly nectar-like fluid becomes clear.
[What the immortal] Woquan inadvertently left behind,
[we mortals] can feed on.
[The prunus we now enjoy are] different from those
the poet Lin Bu once admired.
Too lazy to lift the tray made in Zhaozhou.
[I] cannot help laughing at Yuchuan’s artfulness.
In [this] chilly night [I] listen to the sound of the clepsydra.
Under the ancient moon [I] gaze at the jade girdle pendant.
Feeling relaxed and ful, [I] take advantage of this leisure moment,
To chant [a few verses] to my heart’s content.

It has been mentioned that the Qianlong Emperor was an avid drinker
of tea, and in the 11th year of his reign (1746) on his return from visiting
Mount Wutai, Shanxi province, his entourage sojourned to make tea
using fallen snow. In the brew, as well as Longjing tea leaves, were the
additions of prunus, pine nut kernels and finger citrus. It was this
concoction that inspired the Emperor to compose the present poem.

A range of Imperial porcelains, mostly teapots and tea-trays, were
enameled with this subject during the Qianlong reign, but the poem
continued in use on snuff bottles during the nineteenth century. See a
similar bottle, also with formalized lingzhi reserved on a blue ground,
illustrated by J. Ford, Chinese Snuff Bottles. The Edward Choate O’Dell
Collection, no. 170. Another is illustrated in The Au Hang Collection of
Chinese Snuff Bottles, p. 198, no. 269.

The Meriem Collection. Lot 704

Hugh Moss |