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These versatile Chinese antiques make superb incense holders or potpourri containers! The lids of these round Qing dynasty paktong handwarmers have lovely openwork patterns and date to the mid to end 19th century. These handwarmers are made of the silvery alloy paktong (“pai-tung” or “baitong”). The heavily cast plain surface bodies have a swing handle which is attached to its sides on decoratively shaped side supports cast from paktong.
In the winter months, handwarmers would be filled with glowing coals and carried to warm the holder’s icy fingers and toes. A New Year’s tradition had villagers taking coals from the main village fire back to their own homes in handwarmers such as this one to ensure good fortune in the coming year. The intricate and refined beauty of these utilitarian objects also made handwarmers an important accoutrement in the scholar’s study.
The alloy paktong has a fascinating history. Centuries before nickel was isolated in the west, the Chinese had produced an alloy of zinc, copper and nickel which had the lustrous sheen and color tone of silver, was appreciably harder than silver, and did not tarnish in use. Many examples of this alloy have a particularly pleasing color which is silver-bright but possesses what has been termed a “soul of gold.” For additional information about paktong, see one fo the very best articles on this subject in ARTS OF ASIA, Nov/Dec. 1992.
CONDITION : excellent.
DIMENSIONS: Large: 7” (17.8 cm) diameter, 4 ¼” (10.8 cm) high to top of lid, 6 ¾” (17.2 cm) high to top of handle Small: SOLD
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