the horn of warm toffee tone, well carved with figures both male and female, young and old, engaged in various pursuits within a mountainous landscape, on thin walkways protruding from the edges of the steep cliff faces with jagged outcrops of rock and dotted with small pavilions, with scattered pine, pawlonia, plantain and willow amongst other trees and flowers, the handle in the form of two tall pine trees with thick gnarled trunks, the uppermost branches extending over the lip of the cup amid cloud scrolls and into the interior carved as a deep gully, crossed by a thin walkway supporting five figures at the other end
The present cup is impressive for its magnificent size and detailed carving of figures in landscape. The cup appears to be carved with various episodes from a number of famous Chinese dramas, such as the Mudanting (Peony Pavilion), the Xixiang ji (Romance of the West Chamber) and the Western Han love story of Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun, Feng qiu huang (Phoenix Seeks Mate). The carving is meticulous and fine, with special attendtion paid to the depiction of such a large body of figures in a complex setting.
Examples of smaller cups carved with figures are illustrated; see ibid., pl. 139, depicting a scene from the Preface to the Scholarly Gathering at the Orchid Pavillion by Wang Xizhi; another carved with a scene of the Eight Immortals celebrating, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Shanghai, 2001, pl. 148; and two carved with figures in landscape, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, published in Jan Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, figs. 353 and 354.
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