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Jade for the complete office

(No.10, Vol.1, Dec 2011 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Vietnam Heritage has been publishing a series based on the National Museum of Vietnamese History’s current exhibition of jade objects and the museum’s publication Vietnamese Ancient Jade. This month the topic is jade brush accessories used by the Nguyen dynasty.
The jade collection of the National Museum of Vietnamese History has examples of what were known as the four precious office articles (Văn Phòng Tứ Bảo). Though there are traditionally four utensils, the museum concentrates on those three in its catalogue, brush rests, brush washes and brush pots.



A grey-white jade brush rest is decorated with two carved dragons flanking a moon-shaped piece of jade in the centre. Motifs include rolling clouds, whirling of dragons. These were characters of Nguyen dynasty arts in Imperial Hue.
Grey-white jade was used for a brush rest with three mountains as decoration; on their faces were the phoenix, plane tree, mountain, pine, crane shapes. Some white grey jade brush rests were decorated with pine, willow, old men and an errand-boy in fairyland.
Brush washes included many types. One grey white jade with cup shape. The edge of the mouth was carved with two bats with spread wings and rolling cloud and wave motifs.
Another white jade brush wash was peach-shaped, its body decorated with peach leaves and monkey and bat shapes.
A white brush wash was decorated with the curve of lotus leaf. Its bottom is decorated with two apricot blossom flowers. A white jade brush wash was decorated with orange fruit. The cover is from gold and, at the top, a piece of sapphire. Its height was 4.7 cm, mouth diameter 2.0 cm.
A white jade brush wash was peach shaped, with two parts. The cover was carved with peach leaves and a bat motif. Peach fruit was a symbol of longevity, as in a legend about Tay Vuong Mau’s peach fruit. The bat was symbol of happiness.
Peach-fruit-plus-bat subject (longevity-happiness) was a subject in the major art of Imperial Hue.n

Top: Jade brush wash with gold lid from the Nguyen-dynasty in the 19th century. Height 4.7 cm.
Right: A brush wash with a more organic shape, that of a lotus leaf. Height 2.5 cm. Centre: Peach-shaped brush wash with peach-leaf, monkey and bat motifs. Height 3.2 cm
Photos: National Museum
of Vietnamese History

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