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Place of Origin: CHINA

Date: Qing Dynasty (18th - 19th Century)

Overall: 310mm

Reference: 276

Status: Sold

Full Description:

This unusual and highly decorative eating set comprises a knife, a pair of chopsticks, and a toothpick.

The knife’s handle is made from nanmu burl, a highly regarded timber, frequently mentioned as a material par excellence in Ming literati writings and often used in scholars’ objects as well as for decorative cabinets’ doors and tabletop panels.[1] It is further fitted with a rounded silver pommel and collar, and a slender single-edged blade exhibiting a folded, layered construction on its surface.

The throat-piece of the scabbard is composed of three silver-gilt bands chased and engraved to depict twining foliage and a central poppy flower. A band attached to the centre of the scabbard, as well as the chape, are decorated in a similar style.

The main section of the black-painted shagreen scabbard is decorated on both faces with four- and six-petal flowers in a pleasant variety of semi-precious stones: coral, lapis lazuli, and mother-of-pearl and green jades, each petal carefully enclosed within finely twisted silvered copper wire. The reverse face also features a mirrored pair of bone teardrops that reveal tongue scrapers when pulled out, above which sits a lobed plaque chased to depict foliage which extends along a vertical band that continues into a suspension block engraved with the two Chinese characters, 喜卍 – this appears to read wan (meaning ten thousand) which is often used synonymously with the word eternal.

A pair of bone chopsticks (one missing a section at the tip) and a toothpick accompany this set.

Decoration of this kind – using inlays of precious stones – appears in many Qing dynasty pieces, such as a “Quiver and bow case of black velvet with jade and coral inlays” belonging to the Qing Court collection at the Beijing Palace Museum.[2]


[1] Evarts, Curtis, C. L. Ma Collection: Traditional Furniture from the Greater Shanxi Region, 1999.

[2] Beijing Palace Museum (author), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the [Beijing] Palace Museum: Armaments and Military Provisions, The Beijing Palace Museum, 2008, p. 93.


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