Place of Origin: CHINA
Date: Qing Dynasty (18th - 19th Century)
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. 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.
 Evarts, Curtis, C. L. Ma Collection: Traditional Furniture from the Greater Shanxi Region, 1999.
 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.