A Pair of Carved Bamboo Pots

Signed: Zhu Wenyou

Qing Dynasty 清 (1644-1911)

3 3/5 inches high


Of circular section, each skillfully carved in liuqing technique around the sides in a continuous scene with a painterly lakeside landscape with mountain peaks, rocky promontories, bridges, fenced enclaves, a variety of tress including willow and pine and with various figures either in small boats or under thatched roofs in conversation, all carved through the paler ochre skin to the darker reddish-brown body beneath, one pot with two seals, a square seal reading Zhu Wen You Zhi (made by Zhu Wenyou), and a rectangular seal which reads Mi --- Tang (second character illegible), the other pot with a lengthy inscription followed by a small seal, the inscription reads Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Ju Yi Xian, Wenyou (living and relaxing in a water village of the Southern Yangtze River, Wenyou, and followed by the seal Zhu, the pots edged in a darker hardwood at the foot and rim, age cracks.


These exceptional pots are from the hand of Zhu Wenyou, a recorded bamboo artist of the early Qing period (late Kangxi to Yongzheng reigns). Jin Yuanyu of the late Qing dynasty recorded over fifty professional bamboo carving artists in his Zhu ren lu. He was also known as Yunzhai was the famous carver Wu Zhjifan’s son-in-law.

The liuqing technique, one favoured by the one of China’s most outstanding master carvers Zhang Zonglue (hao Xihuang), requires a method of carving that involved the clever manipulation of the contrasting colors of the smooth greenish bamboo skin and the darker more fibrous inner layer of the stalk. In this method of carving the upper layer of the bamboo is cut away leaving a dark background while the skin is left in relief to form the positive image. The result is a pronounced contrast between dark and light tones which is achieved through a drying process in which the green skin of the material yurns in to a rich light brown color while the inner layer of the worked bamboo matures into a darker lustrous brown tone.


See Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Water Pine and Stone Retreat Collection – Scholarly Art II, 4 April 2012, Lot 120. Kwan, Simon, Ming and Qing Bamboo, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2000