For another Yongzheng reign-marked Songhua inkstone in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, see A Special Exhibition of Sunghua Inkstone Comparable to the Best Tuan and She Inkstones, Taipei, 1993, pp. 143-145, cat. no. 48. The texture of the stone and style of carving, especially the fluidity of the treatment of the leaves, is close to that on the current inkstone, as is the treatment of the incised mark.
Songhua stone belongs to the sedimentary rock family and is named after the Songhua River in Jilin province. For its natural colouration in the brown and green palette that gives the stone many decorative possibilities combined with its smooth surface texture, it was ideally suited for the making of inkstones. Its association with Jilin in the Manchu motherland made it particularly popular with the Qing rulers. From the Kangxi period, it became a staple of the Palace Workshop carvers.
Zhou Nanquan in 'Songhuashi yan [Songhua Inkstone]', Wenwu, 1980, no. 1, pp. 86-87, notes that in Qianlong's poetry collection, Shengjing tuchan zayong shier shou ('Twelve Miscellaneous Poems on the Native Products of Shengjing'), the emperor praises the stone as 'Songhua yu' (Songhua jade). He further mentions that in the 39th year of Qianlong's reign (1774) official records list a total of 120 Songhua stone pieces, whether worked or as raw material, in the imperial palace collection. On three occasions that year, raw material amounting to 38 pieces from Jilin province was sent to the palace. Out of five stone pieces, eight inkstones and their boxes were made.
Another study by Chi Jo-hsin in 'A Study of the Sunghua Inkstone Tradition', Special Exhibition of Sunghua Inkstone, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1993, p. 38, mentions that "during the Qianlong period, an inventory of inkstones in the Imperial Household was compiled. Of the more than two hundred entries in the Hs'i-ch'ing- yen-pu which is part of the Ssu-k'u-ch'uan-shu, six Sunghua inkstones with imperial reign marks of the K'ang-hsi, Yung-cheng and Ch'ien-lung periods are recorded, five of which are in the collection of the National Palace Museum."
Currently there are eighty Songhua inkstones in the Palace Museum, Beijing, of which ten are attributed to Kangxi, sixteen to Yongzheng, thirteen to Qianlong, nine to Jiaqing, one to Daoguang and five to Guangxu's reigns.
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