The Bodhisattva Collection

Zun-Shaped Bronze Vase, Chinese Ming or Japanese Edo

Zun-Shaped Bronze Vase, Chinese Ming or Japanese Edo

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Sculpture: Pre 1700: Item # 1104172
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An elegant and highly stylized zun-shaped lacquered bronze vase, either Chinese Late Ming Period (1600's) or Japanese Early Edo Period (1600's). This very interesting and attractive piece with its splayed footed base, angular shoulder, and trumpet-shaped mouth that resembles opened floral petals when viewed from the interior, was most likely intended as a flower vase itself, but its intended purpose is no more certain than its actual country of origin. Indeed, despite its presentation of a figural group of Confucian (Chinese) sages along with a leashed ox beneath a flying crane (all symbolizing a specific albeit esoteric Confucian parable), the scholarship on these vases is decidedly conflicted as to whether they are actually 17th century Chinese Ming Period pieces, or 17th century Japanese Edo Period pieces. Frankly, we cannot be 100% certain ourselves either. This is one of those fascinating and rare instances where even the experts cannot agree, which we think actually adds extra intrigue and interest to this piece. On one hand, the curator of the Clague Collection (which has an identical piece we depict in photo 12) sets forth a persuasive case for why this vase is most likely Japanese. On the other hand, various Chinese scholars and experts including the venerable Mr. Boda Yang have opined definitively that these pieces are indeed Chinese Ming in origin. Reflective of this battle of differing academic opinion, Robert Mowry and Claudia Brown have written: "This bronze ranks among the most vexing in the Clague Collection in terms of attribution. Virtually identical pieces in other collections have been attributed not only to China, but to Japan....The present author contends that this vase was made in Japan, most likely in the seventeenth century, though he hastens to point out that others have assigned it to Ming Dynasty China with certitude."

Size and Condition: 7 inches tall, 5 1/4 inches at the widest point. Superb overall condition. There is expected minor surface wear in various places commensurate with age and handling. The base plate may have been replaced at some point which is common for these pieces. Additionally, these lacquered bronze pieces are sometimes re-lacquered over time at various points in their existence. From the wear characteristics evidenced on this piece, it is unlikely that it has been re-lacquered in the past 100-150 years, perhaps even longer.