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Zitan incense vase copy.jpg



11.2 cm high

The small vase is of square section with indented corners, a waisted neck and inward-curved foot. The flat wide rim is carved with raised edges surrounding the outer rim and the central quatrefoil opening. One side is inlaid in silver wire with an eight-character inscription, reading Liang chen mei jing shang xin le shi, ending with a square seal. The base is slightly recessed. The dark wood has patinated to a smooth and rich surface.





Formerly in a private American collection


Roger Keverne, London



Bonhams, Fine Chinese Art, London, 5 November 2009, Lot 303


Bonhams, Roger Keverne Ltd.: Moving On (Part I), London, 11 May 2021, lot 371



The two-line inscription, taken from a preface by Xie Lingyun (385–433 AD), may be translated as follows:


In propitious times,

With beautiful scenery,

The heart takes joy.


Vases of this type contained metal tools to cut, grasp and burn incense alongside an incense burner. A closely related zitan tool vase inlaid with silver wire, dated Ming dynasty, is in the collection of the Shanghai Museum, published by the Cernuschi Museum, Paris, in Parfums de Chine, La Culture de L’encens au Temps des Empereurs, 2018, pl. 71.

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