Chenxiangmu was used for the production of scholarly objects, the appeal of the wood lying in both the beauty of the raw material as well as the elegant and unrestrained forms in which they were carved. Often fashioned into naturalistic forms, this style of decoration was a sophisticated play on the nature of the wood itself while highlighting the momentary nature of life. Due to its hard and fragile properties, chenxiangmu objects are vulnerable to cracking and generally formed by piecing together several small segments. Thus, the present sceptre is a rare extant example from the Ming dynasty which is particularly notable for its well-preserved condition. A smaller ruyi sceptre, but carved in simulation of a lingzhi head and attributed to the eighteenth century, was sold in these rooms, 8th April 2010, lot 1974; and another fashioned with finger citrons on the head, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2012, lot 2388.
Additional chenxiangmu objects for the scholar’s table include a brushrest published in Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, pl. 199; three small libation cups included in Bo Gyllensvard, 'Two Yuan Silver Cups and Their Importance for Dating of Some Carvings in Wood and Rhinoceros Horn', Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, 1971, no. 43, pp. 223-233; another, from the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat collection, sold in these rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2223; an incense holder sold in our New York rooms, 19th March 2007, lot 703, from the Albright Knox Art gallery, Buffalo, New York; and a carving of scholars within a boulder, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in Jiangxin yu xiangong Ming Qing diaoke zhan. Zhu mu guohe pian/Uncanny Ingenuity and Celestial Feats: The Carvings of Ming and Qing Dynasties: The Art of Bamboo, Wood and Fruit Stones, Taipei, 2009, pl. 26.
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