Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 17th-18th centuries
Tray; lacquer on wood, mother-of-pearl, silver, gold, and bamboo
H x W x D: 7.3 x 27.8 x 17 cm (2 7/8 x 10 15/16 x 6 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


China, game playing, playing, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), zither
Provenance research underway.

This delicate design was created using thin sheets of iridescent mother-of-pearl, crushed shells, and gold and silver foil. Each mother-of-pearl element was cut by hand from colored layers of shell, polished, and inlaid into the design like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Shell is set into the lacquer when it is still damp and adhesive. Clear lacquer is also brushed over the top to act as glue. Children were a popular subject in Chinese art, symbolizing a wish for many sons. Here, children play games, fly kites, and perform on the zither. By assuming an educated persona, the musical child represents the hope that the sons will become scholars at the Chinese court.

Published References
  • Ann C. Gunter. The Art of Playing. vol. 4, no. 1 New York, Winter 1991. fig. 4-5.
  • Lee Yu-kuan. Oriental Lacquer Art., 1st ed. New York. p. 204.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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