J.J. Lally & Co., Oriental Art / New York City, New York

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Current Exhibition

ELEGANTLY MADE: Art for the Chinese Literati

March 13-27, 2020

A CARVED REFINED CLAY INKSTONE (CHENGNI YAN)
8.
A CARVED REFINED CLAY INKSTONE (CHENGNI YAN)

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

the shallow oblong block of chengni (澄泥) refined stoneware moulded and carved with a wide circular ‘sun’ grinding platform below a deep crescent-shape ‘moon’ water well all enclosed by raised line borders and flanked by a vigorously carved dragon and swirling clouds at the top and a fish swimming amidst water weeds below, the carved sections polished to a deeper purplish tone above the pale yellowish-brown ground.

Length 8 58 inches (22 cm)

Chengni inkstones (澄泥硯) are a special category of ceramic inkstones made from highly refined clay produced by a complex and laborious process of filtering and kneading silted clay until the particles are as fine as possible before pressing, moulding, carving, drying and firing.

A detailed description of the method of production of chengni inkstones published in the Song dynasty by Su Yijian (958-996), in the third fascicle of Wenfang sipu (Notes on the Four Treasures of the Scholar’s Studio) is quoted by Kwan, Chinese Inkstones, Hong Kong, 2005, p. 9 (in Chinese) and p. 41 (translated into English).

A very similar chengni inkstone dated by inscription to 1359 in a private collection in Shanghai, is illustrated by Luo, Zhongguo chengni guyan jianshang (Connoisseurship of Ancient Chinese Chengni Inkstones), Shanghai, 2005, pp. 90-91, no. 41. 

Compare also the white stone inkstone with the same ‘sun and moon’ grinding surface and water well surrounded by carved bamboo and grapes in a private collection in Beijing, illustrated by Cai and Hu (eds.), Zhongguo ming yan jianshang (Connoisseurship of Famous Chinese Inkstones), Ji’nan, 1992, pp. 59-60, no. 42, described as Yuan dynasty.

元 日月澄泥硯 長 22 厘米

Additional Images (Touch to enlarge)

8.
A CARVED REFINED CLAY INKSTONE (CHENGNI YAN)

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

Length 8 58 inches (22 cm)

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