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Quiver with arrows

Place of Origin: China (Qing dynasty)

Date: First half of 19th Century

Overall: 300mm

Reference: 515

Status: Available

Full Description:

A Qing dynasty quiver, probably dating from the first half of the nineteenth century, made with a wooden base and black lacquered body, with bone inlays depicting auspicious Chinese symbols.

Easily identifiable are the implements associated with the Bāxiān (八仙) or “Eight Immortals” of the Taoist pantheon: 

Swords of Lü Dongbin, Scholar, poet and leader of the eight. 

Lotus flower of He Xiangu, Improver of health.

Jade tablets of Cao Guojiu, Song scholar who attained immortality.

Crutch and calabash of Li Tieguai, Immortal of medicine.

Flower basket of Lan Caihe, Patron of florists and gardeners.

Flute of Han Xiangzi, Patron saint of musicians.

Castanets of Zhang Guolao, The eccentric alchemist.

Fan of Zhongli Quan, who can resurrect the dead and turn silver to gold.

Apart from these elements, a number of other auspicious symbols are depicted, such as books, scrolls, brushes, a go board and a guqin all part of a Chinese suite of “treasures“ associated with the Chinese scholar’s class.

Other notable features include six distinctive flowers that appear like blazing stars with lozenge-shaped petals, and three stems with flower buds on the front. Below that is a stylized longevity symbol: shòu.

One rather unusual feature is the slot on the side of the quiver which is obviously meant to hold a long, narrow implement of some sort. However, there is no obvious archery-related piece of equipment that would fit into it. So far this is the only encountered quiver that has this feature.

Along the back are two hinges that would have held a number of pockets for special arrows, usually three. The small loop is for a counterbalancing strap. The hole at the top would have held a screw, often with a large wingnut, to tighten the top of the quiver.

This type of work, with bone inlaid in thick lacquer and reliance on lozenge shapes for floral features, is very distinct. It is sometimes found on trousse sets, and has also been seen on a lacquered box, albeit privately owned and without provenance, making it impossible to establish a date or place of production.

There is also a small kang table in the Victoria & Albert Museum accession number FE.25.2-1985 that exhibits similar work, especially in the lozenge-shaped flower petals shown within some flowers on the side.1 The museum database gives contradictory dates of “1550-1599” and “seventeenth century”, while in the museum publication, the same piece is dated to 1650-1720.2

This is the only quiver we’ve come into contact with, that is decorated in this way. Stylistically, it would usually be attributed the work to Southern China, nineteenth century, as this corresponds with the profile shape of the quiver. Major centres of inlaid work at the time were in Canton and Suzhou.3

The quiver is shown here, with four large Qing arrows of the period. Some restoration to the inlay.

The strong Chinese cultural influence on this piece may indicate that it was worn by a Chinese soldier, but some Manchus were also very much sinified and valued scholarly pursuits at this time, such as poetry.4



2. Craig Clunas; Chinese Furniture. Bamboo Publishing Ltd. London. 1988. Page 61.

3. Ibid.

4. Mark C. Elliott; The Manchu Way. Stanford University Press 2001. Pages 10 & 295.



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