Home > Collections > Chinese Art
Three-tiered octagonal food box with peony spray and scrolls
16th- first half of the 17th century

Ming dynasty

Red lacquer on wood core with incised and gold filled decoration (qiangjin)
H: 17.5 W: 17.8 D: 18.0 cm
China

Gift of Arthur M. Sackler S1987.376a-c

Enlarge this image | Purchase this image

The exterior of this octagonal box is decorated in the qiangjin (engraved gold) technique. In this method of embellishment, the box is repeatedly coated with layers of red lacquer. Lines are then engraved into the surface and a coat of clear lacquer is applied. While the lacquer is still sticky, gold powder or gold leaf is pressed into the lines to fill them. This decorative technique has a long history of use in China and was especially popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A spray of peony flowers, the "king" of flora, enlivens the top of the box and adds an allusion to nobility. The construction of the box is ingenious. A removable middle ring can be placed between the top and bottom halves to accommodate taller objects, or it can be left out and still not interrupt the box's overall design.