BOSHANLU


Compiled by Robert J. Baran



       The boshanlu [ po-shan-lu ] or boshan ("magic mountains" or "universal mountain braziers") have been created since the Western Han (2nd century B.C.E. ).  They are considered a typical innovation of this period.  These were incense burners in the form of mountain peaks rising over waves, symbolizing the abode of the Immortals.
       In the rooms of scholars, these objects were essential.  The boshanlu generally consisted of a bowl, which contained perfumed water representing the sea, and a high cover, sometimes with three levels or even nine, representing a mountain. 

       The most significant feature of the boshanlu is the mountain-shaped lid, but its general shape can be traced back to the basic incense burner type ( xianglu ), which is linked to a related vessel type, the dou or stemmed cup of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (722 - 221 B.C.E. ).  All three vessels, the boshanlu, xianglu, and dou, share certain common features: a chalice shape, a stem support, and a foot.  Without the lid present it is difficult to distinguish the vessels one from the other.  The dou and the stemmed xianglu predate any known examples of the boshanlu in ceramic or bronze.  The early Western Han censers have no representational decor except for a knob handle at the apex of the lid, which may be a simple round protrusion or which may be rendered as a seated bird.  The depth of the bowl is roughly equal to the height of the domed lid, which is consistent with dou design proportions and which yields a box-like appearance.  However, the knob of the cover is quite small in comparison with Warring States dou.  The dou's cover could be taken off, and, if inverted, its knob would become the foot of the lid.  It could be used as a serving dish, according to most interpretations.

       Now, it is said that the people of the Zhou dynasty (late 11th cent. - 221 B.C.E. ) burned Artemisia. By means of southernwood and mugwort the ancients communicated with the spiritual beings.  They did not burn incense, and therefore they had no censers [literally, "incense stoves."].  The people of the Han time commenced to make boshanlu, and what they burned in them were only fragrant species of orchids ( lan hui ).
       In the same ancient source it is further related that importations of new aromatics took place under the Han Emperor Wu (140-87 B.C.E. ) in consequence of the far-reaching expansion politics of this monarch and the newly opened commercial relations of China.  Then for the first time she received from Annam Baroos camphor and cloves; and, as a result of her intercourse with the countries of the West, Parthian incense (gum benjamin or benzoin) and attar of roses made their first appearance on the Chinese market, while orchids and Artemisia were no longer used.  Undoubtedly it was these new aromatics of foreign countries which made the necessity felt of producing a suitable vessel in which to burn them, and which set before the metal-founder and the potter of that time the task of finding a new and adequate form in which to mould it.  Owing to the lack of frankincense in China during the times before the Han, there was no need of an incense-burner.  It remained for the Han to supply this need after the import of foreign products; and the result was the formation of a new type of vessel, the boshanlu.  This was the only ingenious invention for the purpose of fumigating, and it found no successor...  All other vessels of subsequent epochs employed as censers must be traced back to types of vessels developed in connection with the ancestral worship of the Shang and Zhou dynasties.  
       "The Emperor Wu caused special utensils to be manufactured for the sacrifices of fêng and shan (altar mound and mountain, which he was the first Han emperor to perform); and when he showed them to the assembled [Confucian] literati, several among them declared that they did not conform to those of antiquity.  ...[A]n innovating spirit had come over the art of this time, the forms of vessels handed down by tradition were copied slavishly no longer, but new patterns also, new styles deviating from the accepted rules, were invented."   This is per Shi ji by Sima Qian (c. 145-c. 85 B.C.E. ), the famous ancient Chinese historian.
       It is suggested that mountain censers arose in a restricted area, as the individual productions of a small well-defined school of artists under the reign of Han Emperor Wu.
       It is not without significance that this censer should be associated, through its decoration of animals shown free among hills, with inner Asian animal design.  The motifs used in this barbarian tradition flooded into Chinese workshops and kiln centers before the first century B.C.E. as an element of an officially sponsored art equally influential in pottery and bronze.  The nomadic inhabitants of South Siberia are known to have practiced a rite of the purification of newly dug tomb pits by treating them with intoxicating herbal fumes; and the inhalation of such fumes seems to have been part of the shaman's performance.  Similar ritual is likely to have accompanied nomad populations in Central Asia, and through the movement of these people into the Ordos region within the northern loop of the Yellow River and other parts of north China, to have come pausibly to the knowledge of the Chinese.  (Then with the advent of Buddhism, at the earliest in the second century C.E., the censer, given a role in the temple, was to be a lasting feature of the new piety, and to lead to the production of pottery censers of many shapes and varying ceramic interest.)

       Finally, it is a striking historical coincidence of the production of the boshanlu, then a new type of art, simultaneously with the culminating point of the idea of the Fortunate Isles, which had then undoubtedly reached its climax, and held the minds of the people in suspense.  Certainly this new and peculiar art motive, the hill-shaped cover, must have had some reason for its existence, and have been suggested by some idea.  This idea surely must have arisen in the minds of the artists of the day, as the names of those artists are expressly recorded.  All historical data referring to this vessel make it a Chinese invention of the time; and its whole make-up bears every mark of Chinese genius.  Certainly, therefore, in searching for the idea which might have crossed the vision of the artist, we are justified in looking for it in the domain of coeval folk-lore, where our only recourse is to the legend of the Isles or Mountains of the Blest, a most prominent feature in the religious faith and yearnings of those days.  It was undoubtedly more than a speculation of some religious adventurers and charlatans: it was a deep-rooted belief, nourished on the soil of Daoism, expressing the human desire for a better land, for a better immortal life beyond the grave. 

       When the incense was lit, curls of smoke seeped out among the tiny crags and lid perforations like scented mist.  Shrinking himself in the mind's eye, a scholar could then imagine that he was among those mysterious islands.  The presence of ashes in several excavated vessels suggests that they were also used to burn incense at least in the burial setting.  Analysis of the ashes verifies the use of fragrant grasses and other plants, some of which appear in medicinal remedies or were used to communicate the spirits.  It has also been suggested that the incense burned included Cannabis sativa, marijuana, for increased communication effectiveness.
       One bronze perfume burner (see figure below) is inlaid with gold and decorated with a landscape that transports one in imagination to mountains and valleys where bewitching beauty and miniature plants and animals inspired poets and conjured up halcyon days.  Its carved base holds up the sacred mountains whose bases are lapped by the waves of the Eastern Sea.  In another boshanlu (32.4 cmH = 12-3/4 inches) from Hebei, a mountain is supported on the right hand of a human figure who is sitting sideways on a kneeling/prone beast.  Some boshanlu have no perforations, however, and may have been used to hold fragrant herbs placed in the tray below.  Later incense burners exhibit many of the same features. 
       The Daoist utopia as presented in these objects was not a gentle idyllic landscape, but one with formidably undulating slopes where an incongruous assortment of tigers, hydras, mountain goats, deer, birds, monkeys, and men are engaged in a never-ending chase or hunting scene.  It has been suggested that this relentless zoomorphic pursuit was intended to be a visual metaphor for the perpetual force which motivates the cosmos.  Sea monsters represented the ocean; tigers, the mountain.  Climbing men who may be Immortals or virile elders appear occasionally. 
       The allusions to an island-mountain in the sea refer to the Three Isles of the Blessed: Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou.  The legendary Chinese Immortals (hermits of perennial youth) were thought to live partly in the Western Mountains and partly on movable islands in the Eastern Sea off the coast of Shandong.  Like the Immortals themselves, these islands dissolved into mist as human travellers approached.  Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di is known to have sent an expedition of several thousand young aristocratic boys and girls to find them.  It was believed that the drug preventing death grew there; that all the beings there, birds and quadrapeds, were white; and that the palaces and gates were made of gold and silver.  Alas, the group of youths never returned. 
       And tradition says that the Queen Mother of the West (associated with Mt. Kun-lun [K'un-lun], the axis of the world) gave Emperor Qin a boshanlu, a particularly appropriate gift since it depicted exactly [sic] one of the Isles of the Blessed, floating on the sea.  Mt. Kun-lun was the western counterpart of the eastern foam-washed Penglai.
       The belief in the existence of these islands received a new impetus under the Han Emperor Wu.  Since about 133 B.C.E. the first notions of alchemy had sprung up in China: cinnabar was believed to be transmutable into gold in a furnace, and immortality could be attained by him who should eat and drink out of vessels made of such gold.  Li Shao-chün, magician and adept, whose influence held sway over the emperor, persuaded him to sacrifice to the furnace, and to send an expedition over the sea in search of the Fortunate Isles.  In 110 B.C.E. the emperor travelled to the east and, arriving at the shore of the sea, looked off in the distance, hoping to see Mount Penglai. 
       Six years later he built the palace Chien chang just northwest of the capital city, Chang-An. There was an artificial lake there with three islands in it, intended to represent the three Isles of the Blest.  The magicians who went over the sea in search of Mount Penglai never brought any proof of their words.  The emperor gradually grew weary of the strange propositions of the adepts, but could not free himself entirely from the bonds connecting him with magic.  He still continued to hope that he would really find what they promised.  The conception of these islands of happiness, remote in the sea, must have deeply impressed the imagination of the people of that period, as is also proved by the fanciful descriptions given them in later books.

  Fairy mountain incense burner ( Boshan xianglu ), excavated in 1968.  Bronze inlaid with gold.  From the tomb of Prince Liu Sheng (d. 113 B.C.E. , half-brother of Western Han emperor Wu) at Mancheng, Hebei.  26 cm H (10-1/8 inches), max. diameter 12.3 cm (4-7/8 inches), diam. of foot 9.7 cm (3-3/4 inches);  3.4 kg (7-1/2 lb.).  Hebei Provincial Museum, Shijiazhuang.

Liu Sheng was the elder brother of emperor Wudi and was given governance of the kingdom of Chung-shan, in the northeast with a population of six hundred thousand, where he ruled for 39 years until his death.  His tomb was quarried into the hills of Lingshan, near Mancheng in Hebei Province.  "On the floor of the sarcophagus [archeological excavators] found a bronze incense burner fashioned to represent clouds swirling around mountain peaks, thought to represent those of the fabled Mount Tai in Taishan, the stopping-off place for the soul before it progressed to the ten [levels of] hell [or the underworld]."  Although not the most popular of emperor Jingdi's 13 sons, the sybarite Liu Sheng was buried in a jade suit of over 2,100 pieces stitched together by gold threads.  The jade suit bestowed on him not only the status of a member of the royal household but also that of a Son of Heaven.

"Waves of the Eastern Sea lap its base, while a hole behind each little peak emits the incense smoke symbolizing the auspicious cloud vapor exhaled by the fairy mountain -- and, indeed, by all mountains, for according to traditional Chinese belief, all nature is alive and 'breathing.'"

Exceptional in design and workmanship, it is extremely well-preserved, with no signs of incrustation, repair, or damage.  The inside of the pierced top shows signs of browning by smoke and, thus, was not merely a mortuary item. 

(Sources:  Sullivan, Michael  The Arts of China (Berkeley: University of California Press; 1967, 1973, 1977, 1984, 1999.  Fourth Edition, Expanded and Revised), pg. 82, Fig. 5.30 [Red background];  The Great Bronze Age of China, edited by Wen Fong (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1980), Color Plate, 95, pp. 330-331 [Different angle, Blue background]; Lee, Sherman  China 5,000 Years, Innovation and Transformation in the Arts (NY: Guggenheim Museum, 1998), Plate 50, with dark background); Cotterell, Maurice  The Terracotta Warriors (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company; 2004, 2003) pp. 148-153, On the floor quote from pg. 152.)


 
Glazed earthenware,
22.2 cm H (8-3/4 inches),
Western Han (206 B.C.E .-8 C.E. )
(Source: Young, Martie W.  Early Chinese Ceramics From New York State Museums (NY: China Institute in America; 1991), Fig. 11, pp. 43, 42) 
Red pottery under a glaze,
21 cm H (8-1/4 inches),
Han
(Source: Important Chinese Works of Art: The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Bull (NY: Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc.; 1983), Color Plate 113)


Earthenware model of a boshanlu censer,
covered with silvery lead glaze, animals
inhabiting the mountain-lid.
2nd century BC. Western Han Dynasty
Ht. 24 cm (9.4 in).
Courtesy of Messrs Sotheby
(Source: Watson, William  Pre-Tang Ceramics of China, Plate 142, pg. 223)
Red earthenware, 
with an iridescent green glaze, 
23 cm H (9.1 inches); 21 cm D saucer; 
Early to Mid Eastern Han
(Source: Spirit of Han, Fig. 117, pp. 128-129)


Han pottery (left) and gilded bronze (right) boshanlu.
(Source: Han, Prof. Pao-Teh  External Forms and Internal Visions -- The Story of Chinese Landscape Design (Taipei: Youth Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd; 1992; trans. by Carl Shen), pg. 31)

Other boshanlu

        "Although the stars were seen as the final resting place for good souls, there were also two halfway paradises for earthly souls.  These were Mount Kun Lun in Turkestan to the west, home of the everlasting jade, the substance that was believed to confer immortality when consumed, and the mythical isles of Penglai, off the east coast.  These islands were reputedly inhabited by immortals whose good actions had earned them a period in paradise before rebirth on earth or prior to progression to a higher state of existence.
        "Ssu-ma Ch-ien, in his Historical Records [compiled between 103 and 97 B.C.E.], names three islands in Penglai: Penglai, Fang Chang and Ying Chou, in the Gulf of Chihli.  Accounts say that beyond these lie as many as 5 or 10 mythical islands of Penglai that are difficult, if not impossible, to reach.  Legends say that boats approaching the mythical islands are driven away by strong offshore winds.  Other stories say that the mythical islands disappear into a luminous cloud whenever mariners sight them.
        "A few years ago a tourist filming out to sea from the Penglai Pagoda, a tourist attraction on the north-east coast of China, captured a line of mushroom shaped mountains shimmering on the horizon.  The Islands were in fact mirages, illusions caused by refraction of light from layers of air.  The film and sightings have persuaded some scholars that belief in the mythical mountains must have arisen from the same phenomenon in antiquity.
        "Some accounts say that several heroes did overcome all the obstacles to reach the islands successfully and returned to tell the tales of their discoveries: palaces of gold and silver; white men and women; white beasts and birds that ate the herb of life and drank from the fountain of life; of the great mountains of jade which spewed forth magic streams of heavenly water which when mixed with the 'fungus of immortality,' that grows nearby, produces an elixir which, when consumed, confers everlasting life.
        "It was on one such expedition, searching for the elixir of immortality, that [the unifying Qin emperor] Shi Huangdi took ill and died [in 210 B.C.E.]."

        The simultaneous appearance of these boshanlu and of the legends concerning the Three Isles was probably no coincidence.  It was to these longings of their contemporaries that the artists attempted to give life; and the hill-censer did not remain the only production of these aspirations, but the idea of the mountainous Isles of the Blest inspired the potters of the time to other works during the Han epoch.  These include mortuary jars, the cylindrical lian ("hill-jars") carried on bear-shaped feet, whose previous slight domed lids were now replaced with conical-tops shaped like mountains.  These vessels were often lead-glazed in brown or green.  The sides of these lian sometimes display a mountain scene inhabited by animals, and similar figures may be interspersed among the peaks of the lid, but on many pieces the mountain scene is merely adumbrated and the surface left unglazed.  It might be concluded justly that the burying of hill-censers and hill-jars in the grave had also a symbolical signification, and implied the mourner's wish that his beloved deceased might reach the land of bliss and attain immortality on the Fortunate Isles.
 

Lead-glazed earthenware hill-jar, original bright green glaze reduced to silvery iridescence by degradation during burial.
(Source: Hutt, Julia  Understanding Far Eastern Art (NY: E.P. Dutton; 1987), pg. 78.  This book is actually a very good overview of those arts.)
Lian Toilet Box ("Mountain-jar") of red, brown-glazed earthenware with mountain-shaped lid.  1st century BC.  Western Han dynasty.  Ht. 24.5 cm (9.6 in). The British Museum (Courtesy of the Museum)
(Source: Watson, William  Pre-Tang Ceramics of China, Plate 15, pg. 45)


Red earthenware hill-jar with a bluish-green glaze
24 cm H (9.4 inches); 
19.5 cm D, Eastern Han
(Source: Spirit of Han, Fig. 91, pg. 115)
Green-glazed earthenware hill-jar
28 cm H (11 inches); 
21.5 cm D, Late Eastern Han
(Source: Spirit of Han, Fig. 89, pg. 114)


Earthenware vase with "mountain lid," painting in white, red and blue in earth colours.  1st century AD.  Eastern Han dynasty.  Ht. with lid 62 cm (25.8 in); lid 20 cm (8.33 in).
Martin Trust Collection (Courtesy of the owner)
(Source: Watson, William  Pre-Tang Ceramics of China, Colour Plate XI)


       Thus, the idea of portraying a complete natural site in miniature form goes back to at least the Han, when it was associated with religious, mystical, and folkloric concepts belonging particularly to Daoism, but also occurring in other settings. 
       "The presence of incense burning within the boshanlu is recorded in a passage attributed to Liu Xiang, a late Western Han dynasty scholar (80-9 B.C.E. ).  In the text the vessel is labeled as a xunlu, corresponding to the Western Han period appellation, which may support the authenticity of the text.  Liu wrote: 'I value this perfect utensil, lofty and steep as a mountain!  Its top is like Hua Shan yet its foot is a bronze plate.  It contains rare perfumes, red flames, and green smoke.'  Professor Richard Mather has suggested that the second line may be translated as 'Its top strings together [Mts.] Hua and Tai, [yet they are] contained within a bronze platter.'  Marveling at the miniature version of the massive mountain contained on a small plate [ pen -- RJB] , Liu associated the mountain lid with two of the five sacred mountains: Hua Shan in Shaanxi province and Tai Shan in Shandong province.  The careful attention given to noting the scent, the flame, and the smoke vivifies the image and Liu's experience..."
       One contemporary representation of the mountain censer is in a stone relief from a tomb in Yingzhuang village, Nanyang county, Henan province, which dates to the early Eastern Han period.  The relief, which occurs on the central door jamb of an antechamber to the main tomb chambers, depicts a female figure holding the vessel.  The censer obviously has a mountain lid, but other details are difficult to discern.
       Some of the boshanlu had an under dish.  The purpose of this varied: to receive the ashes dropping from the burning incense (if the dish has a perforation at the bottom); or to hold water (if solid) to keep the brasier, when hot, from burning the mats; or to hold water to soak and steam the fragrant herbs, the water resembling the eddying rings of the ocean waves lapping at the vast mountain or island in the midst of the sea.
       These burners were originally made out of "dead" materials, such as bronze, terra-cotta, or porcelain (sometimes with gold inlay), and only later created out of natural rocks.   Sometimes the latter even had living plants added to them.  The boshanlu, therefore, constituted an important link between the earliest representations of magical miniature landscapes and the dwarf potted plants attested from Tang times on (c. 700 C.E. ). 1



NOTES

1.     Laufer, Berthold  Chinese Pottery of the Han Dynasty (Leiden: E.J. Brill, Ltd., 1909; 1962 reprint by Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.), pp. 175-176, 178, 180-181, 191-192, 194-196, 198; with a nod to Cláudio C. Ratto for having me take a second look at this work.

Stein, Rolf A. ( The World in Miniature: Container Gardens and Dwellings in Far Eastern Religious Thought ; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; 1990), pg. 42, which states that specimens existed among the antiquities collected during the Tang and Song, but the boshanlu were no longer said to be made by that time., also pg. 43, note 159 on pg. 300; b&w Fig 24 on pg. 47 is a photo and a line drawing of Liu Sheng's vessel.

Watson, William  Pre-Tang Ceramics of China, Chinese Pottery from 4000 BC to 600 AD (London: Faber and Faber Limited; 1991), pg. 185.  Also, per pp. 27-28, "Recent experimentation in China has however demonstrated that the so-called 'silver glaze' was created independently of the body [of the pottery vessels, such as the two lead-glazed earthenware pieces above].  The pieces in question seem to come exclusively from tombs made in damp soil, or which have suffered flooding.  Affected by water and the atmosphere, the constituents of the glaze have tended to separate and be deposited at discrete levels within the glaze.  Penetrating further into the glaze fissures, the process was repeated at lower levels, forming compact layers -- sometimes as many as twenty -- each about 3 microns thick, and so produced the iridescent and readily flaking surface."

Although the stars quote from pp. 155-156 of Cotterell, Maurice  The Terracotta Warriors (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company; 2004, 2003).

Erickson, Susan N.  "Boshanlu--Mountain Censers of the Western Han Period: A Typological and Iconological Analysis," The Archives of Asian Art 45 (Dec, 1992), pp. 6-28, which is adapted from her dissertation.  Liu Xiang quote from pg. 15.  The door jamb relief is mentioned in Note 1, pp. 20-21.  A list of excavated boshanlu near the end of the article gives 133 pieces from 93 sites dating throughout the Western Han.  Of these, 51 pieces are made of bronze, 68 of ceramic, 8 of gilded bronze, 2 of talc, 3 of iron, and one of bronze with inlaid gold -- Liu Sheng's, as depicted near the top of this page. 
        At least 30 of the pieces did not have an accompanying pen (16 bronze, 9 ceramic, 2 gilded bronze, 2 iron, and the bronze with gold inlay).  The fifteen Chinese language sources Erickson examined did not indicate if there was a pen with at least 35 others (6 bronze, 28 ceramic, 1 gilded bronze).  Nine of the pen-less vessels are also noted as being incomplete.  Sixty-three of the total vessels come from Hunan province (28 sites: 8 bronze pieces, 47 ceramic, 5 gilded bronze, both talc, and 1 iron), eight each from Shanxi and Shandong (7 and 8 sites, respectively), seven each from Shaanxi and Hebei (7 sites each), and the remaining 40 come from 36 sites in 13 other provinces. 
        Sixty-seven of the pieces have heights given: the shortest is an 8.3 cm (3-1/4 inches) bronze without a pen, the tallest is a 58.0 cm (22-13/16 inches)  pen-less gilded bronze which is on a unique stand in the shape of a pole of bamboo. This latter piece is also the earliest safely dated censer on the list due to an inscription which places its origin in 135 B.C.E.   Originally made for use in one of the imperial palaces, it was later bestowed as a gift upon Princess Yangxin (c.153-106 B.C.E. ), the elder sister of the emperor Han Wudi.  (See Erickson's "Boshanlu" article Fig. 7, pg. 11; also as Fig. 2, pg. 29 in Erickson's "Wenley Questions" article, and Fig. 9 in Clunas, Craig  Art in China (Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1997), pg. 33 which describes it twice as gilded silver.)  The average of all of the heights is 19.73 cm (7-3/4 inches); if we drop the shortest shortest and tallest, the average is now only down to 19.32 cm (range of 9.0 - 32.3 cm (3-17/32 to 12-23/32 inches), with 14.0 cm (5-1/2 inches) being the mode or most frequently repeated size).

bronze, gold and silver boshanlu with bamboo-like stem
Incense burner consisting of a bronze brazier and a stem shaped like jointed bamboo, which are riveted together and then the whole is plated with gold and silver, a technique which became increasingly popular in the Han dynasty.
Manufactured under official supervision 137 B.C.E. and delivered the following year. Approx. 2.62 kg.
The base has two coiled open-mouthed dragons, one of which appears to bite the bamboo-like stem with its teeth. Three coiled dragons are cast near the top of the stem, their heads propping up the brasier on which more dragons are rednered in low relief. Fine lines depict the dragons' scaly bodies.
(Source: Michaelson, Carol  Gilded Dragons, Buried Treasures From China's Golden Ages (London: British Museum Company Ltd.; 1999), pp. 49.)


        Note:  This is in no way a complete list of all known boshanlu.  As is referenced in another of Erickson's articles, "The Freer Gallery of Art Boshanlu: Answers to A.G.Wenley's Questions" ( Oriental Art, Vol. 42, No. 4, 1996/97, pp. 27-38), there are a number of other pieces in museums in the U.S., U.K., Europe and elsewhere.  Some of these were purchased for their eventual homes by collectors and have little or no documentation as to their provenance.  Thus, the age, location, and any details of their burial hordes or long-time collection status are totally unknown. 
       The particular specimen of that article, acquired by Wenley in 1947, is a unique jewel-encrusted bronze piece, 17.75 cm H (7 inches) (below).  Inlaid silver and gold support the stones (turquoise, carnelian, and amber) which apparently were added as an afterthought, crowded into place amid the figures of animals and hills.

bronze boshanlu, inlaid
Bronze Censer of the Po Shan Type, Inlaid with Gold, Silver, Turquoise and Cornelian
2nd-1st century B.C.E. , Height 17.9 cm, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
(Source: Jenyns, R. Soame & William Watson F.S.A.   Chinese Art II (NY: Rizzoli; 1966, 1980) Plate 38 and pg. 73)


       cf. per The Chinese Exhibition, The Exhibition of Archaeological Finds of the People's Republic of China (Kansas City, MO: Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum; 1975), b&w photo pg. 363, an openwork censer of three-colored glazed pottery dates from the end of the thirteenth century C.E.   Same figure as Stein, Fig. 22?;

Spirit of Han (Singapore: The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society and Sun Tree Publishing Limited; 1991), pp. 38-39, 42-44;

Keswick, Maggie (Chinese Garden: History, Art & Architecture ; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.; 1978), pp. 38, 40;

first Hebei bronze perfume burner (Sheng tomb) shown in Zhongmin, Han and Hubert Delahaye  (A Journey Through Ancient China; New York: Gallery Books; 1985), pg. 128;

also shown in b&w in Sullivan, Michael (The Arts of China ; Berkeley: University of California Press; 1984), pg. 73;

Spirit of Han, pg. 43 (good detail in b&w), and Keswick, pg. 40, which gives current location as National Palace Museum, Taiwan --  also pg. 119;

second Hebei piece shown in Stein, pg. 46 (b&w) and The Chinese Exhibition, color and b&w plates 146;

a green-glazed "hill-jar" from the Han dynasty, about 22.4 cm H (8-13/16"), is shown in Koyama, Fujio and John Figgess  (Two Thousand Years of Oriental Ceramics; New York: Harry N. Adams, Inc.; 1960), caption on pg. 34 and b&w Fig. 12 on pg. 35, while another specimen known from a Chinese colony in Korea is shown as b&w Fig. 131 on pg. 315, with caption on pg. 314;

Yanagisawa, Soen (Tray Landscapes (Bonkei and Bonseki), Tokyo: Japan Travel Bureau; 1955), pp. 2, 77;

Behme, Robert (Bonsai, Saikei and Bonkei, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.; 1969), pg. 15;

Cahill, James (Scholar Painters of Japan: The Nanga School; New York: Asia House Gallery; 1972), pg. 89.

       Cannabis as incense is mentioned in "In Search of Immortality," http://www.arthist.umn.edu/classes/AH8720/Spring2001/reading3.html, originally published in Searching for Immortality, the exhibition catalog of Weisbrod Chinese Art Ltd., Sept. 19, 2000, pp. 10-11 ( http://www.weisbrodchineseart.com ).  The plant we term Cannabis was mentioned in ancient Chinese herbals at least as early as the second century B.C.E. when the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing was first put in writing, per  Bretschneider, E., M.D.  Botanicon Sinicum (as Article III in Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1881, New Series, Vol. XVI, Part I, Shanghai, 1882), pp. 31-32.

       Per Teresi, Dick   Lost Discoveries, The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya (New York: Simon & Schuster; 2002), pg. 356, "The Chinese were fascinated and preoccupied with preparations of perfumes, gases, airborne poisons, noxious bombs, explosions, and flaming eruptions. From the Ch'in and Han dynasties onward (221 B.C.-A.D. 220) they burned incense; fumigated for health reasons, to rid their houses and books of insects and pests; and produced smoke ritually to drive out demon spirits. Smoke, detonations, and loud explosions were intrinsically associated with the spirit world. Militarily, they used toxic smoke screens generated by pumps and furnaces in siege warfare from the fourth century B.C., or perhaps earlier."

       Per Stein (above), pg. 303, note 183, "In China fumigation by means of scented and spiced essences had a sexual overtone.  The name chiao-fang (pepper room) for the room of the queen alluded to powers of fecundity.  Elsewhere, infusions of scented and stimulating essences always played a big role in Taosim."  Pg. 89 states "In China the Taoists were responsible for the popularity of legends about the Isles of the Blessed.  They preserved and transmitted an ancient stock of popular religious beliefs that are clearly dominated by the female element, a domination that the victory of the essentially masculine morality of the literate classes [Confucianists] could not snuff out.  This religion had its basis mostly in southern China (in the state of Ch'u).  This country was well known for the importance it placed on female mediums and their wild trance dances, as well as on fumigation."

       Per Kerr, Rose (ed.)  Chinese Art and Design, Art Objects in Ritual and Daily Life (Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press; 1991), pg. 190, porcelain vessels in the shape of the meat, vegetable or pickled dish-serving dou, the wine pouring zun, and the food offering fu were in use during Qing Qianlong times (1736-95) for imperial ceremonies at various altars, especially around Beijing. These, of course, were based on bronze vessels used in rituals at the very dawn of Chinese history, as found in the c.1766 Illustrated Explanation to the Ritual Implements of the Imperial Dynasty. The dou had at least eighty-four specimens in use at the north Altar of Earth alone.



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