Very Rare Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty Stone Toad Money Tree Base (AD 25 - 220)
This extremely rare toad-shaped pedestal, or base, for the legendary coin-shedding tree dates to the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25 - 220) and has been excavated from Sichuan province. The coin-shedding, or money, tree is known from late Han Dynasty funerary art from the south-west of China. It was believed that if shaken, coins would fall from it. The money tree itself would comprise a bronze trunk, or pole, to which were attached finely-cast bronze branches, the leaves of which would depict mythical animals and beings as well as coins. The bronze trunk would be inserted into its base. Although several money tree bases are known to have survived, the bronze trees are usually only found in fragments, although there are a handful of complete examples to be found in Chinese museums. Most known money tree bases are made of moulded pottery and can take various forms, again usually depicting various mythical creatures (see for example a pottery example we presently have, our stock number M9391). Stone money tree bases are much rarer than pottery examples. This particular example we offer here is in the form of a toad. It sits with head raised very slightly, possibly in anticipation of leaping. Note the traces of red pigment to the eyes and mouth. In its back is the hole into which was placed the trunk of the money tree. Interestingly, we scraped out the bottom of the hole and in amongst the detritus we found small circular bronze shavings, clearly having come from the base of the bronze trunk.
Length 36 cm (14 inches), height 20 cm (8 inches), weight 28.5 kg (63 lbs). This item is available to view at our gallery.
This superb Han Dynasty stone sculpture was bought by us in 1995 and has not previously been offered for sale.
For more information about money trees, refer to the British Museum book "Mysteries of Ancient China". Despite having an extensive library, we have only been able to find one reference to a stone money tree base, also in the form of a toad, in the 1998 Peoples Fine Arts Publishing House (Beijing) book, "The Great Treasury of Chinese Fine Arts, Sculpture 2, Sculpture of the Qin and Han Dynasties".
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