Title:Presentation BoxesArtist:Artist UnknownDate:1779Creation Place:Asia, ChinaCredit Line:Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Augustus L. SearleAccession Number:41.57.1a,b
Made of exquisitely crafted gold, these five boxes, each bearing an attribute of one of the Eight Taoist Immortals on their lids are from an original set of eight which was presented to the Ch'ien-lung emperor in 1779, perhaps on the occasion of his birthday. The Eight Taoist Immortals (pa-an-hsien) were extremely popular motifs in Ch'ing dynasty decorative arts such as lacquer, textiles and porcelain. The attributes depicted here include (1) a fan, symbol of Chung-li Ch'uan, patron saint of the military; (2) an iron crutch and double gourd, symbol of Li T'ieh-kuai, protector of the weak and ill; (3) a bamboo tube containing rods, symbol of Chang Kuo Lao, patrol saint of calligraphers and painters; (4) a flute, emblematic of Han Hsiang Tzu, patron saint of musicians; and (5) a flower basket, symbol of Lan Ts'ai-ho, patron of florists and gardeners. Superbly worked in cast, chased, and filigree techniques, these objects reflect the virtuosity commonly associated with Ch'ien-lung period (1736-1795) decorative arts. The whereabouts of the three remaining boxes is unknown.