carved with lotus flowers and leaves; small crab near base

Incense Cylinder, early 18th century

Unknown artist, expand_more


Gift of Ruth and Bruce Daytonexpand_more  96.49.4a-c

Carved from bamboo, this perforated cylinder held sticks of aromatic wood and functioned as an incense burner or perfumer. It displays a delicately carved group of literati with attendants in a pine and bamboo grove listening to qin music. Although bamboo and wood had been used in China since antiquity for functional items, their use for finely crafted decorative objects began only in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The plant's tremendous strength and ability to bend without breaking was seen as virtuous and likened to the disciplined character and integrity of men and women. With its Confucian overtones and subtle, monochromatic color, bamboo became a favored material for literati accoutrements during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Incense Cylinder
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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carved with lotus flowers and leaves; small crab near base