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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Oval writing box and cover. Underglaze blue with dense lattice pattern inset with ogival panels containing scrolling flowers. 'Three Friends of Winter', pine, prunus and bamboo, on inside of lid. Inside contains separate areas for porcelain ink, pens and porcelain water, with scrolling flower design. Base unglazed.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1426-1435
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 72 millimetres
    • Width: 320 millimetres
    • Depth: 78 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Published PDF date : Ming XuandeRoom 95 label text:

    PDF A629

    Writing box in a Middle Eastern metal shape

    This writing box has three separate compartments inside possibly for pens, water or ink and a well for storing blotting threads. The inside of the cover is painted with the ‘Three Friends of Winter’. A box of the same shape but with a different design was excavated from the Yongle strata at the imperial kiln site at Jingdezhen in 1984. The Yongle emperor sponsored trade and exploratory missions abroad. Admiral Zheng He鄭和 (AD 1371–1433) began his voyages to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa under the Yongle emperor’s patronage. At court a fashion for ‘exotic’ Middle Eastern are inspired object forms and decorative motifs prevailed. The shape of this writing box as well as its dense decoration is inspired by earlier inlaid metalwork from the Middle East, as evidenced by brass writing boxes, some inlaid with silver, that were made, for example, in Egypt or Syria.

    Porcelain with underglaze cobalt-blue decoration
    Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province 江西省, 景德鎮
    Ming dynasty, Yongle period, AD 1403–24


  • Bibliography

    • Medley 1976 p.39, no.A629 bibliographic details
    • Krahl & Harrison-Hall 2009 p.56, no.26 bibliographic details
    • Pierson 2004 pp 58-59, no.A629 bibliographic details
    • Pierson 2004A pp 60-61, no.22 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G95/dc59/s2

  • Exhibition history

    2014 Sep-2015 Jan, BM WCEC, 'Ming: 50 years that changed China'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Department


  • Registration number



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Object reference number: RRC39534

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