Inkstone with Bamboo Design

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: late 18th century

Culture: China

Medium: Green schist; wood case

Dimensions: H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm); W. 3 in. (7.6 cm); D. 11/16 in. (1.7 cm)

Classification: Inkstone

Credit Line: Gift of Marion Chait Howe and Allan S. Chait, in memory of Ralph M. Chait and Libby E. Chait, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.120.1a–c


The green inkstone is carved in the shape of bamboo stem segments and is adorned in low relief with leafy branches rising from behind rocks. The slanted surface of the sunken grinding area displays multiple layers of natural markings within the stone in purple and various shades of green. The wooden box is also carved in the shape of a length of bamboo.
The ink slab and its case bear three inscriptions, which offer clues and raise questions about the work's date. An inscription on the underside of the stone and one on the lid of the box, although signed Qinggong Daoren and Nancun, respectively, both have the same seal, Zuo. While these names are unknown from other sources, they probably denote the same person. The stone's inscription is dated to 1370, which is curiously early, considering the good condition of the box. The third inscription, on the upper side of the slab, comprising eight delicate characters executed in regular script, is dated to the summer solstice of the renwu year (1702), signed Wang Shizhen (1634–1711), a preeminent poet of the early Qing period, and is followed by Wang's seal, Yuan. If this inscription is not a genuine ownership mark by Wang Shizhen, it is likely to have been added either during Wang's time or not long after his death. From 1722 onward, because the character zhen in Wang's name also occurred in the personal name of the newly enthroned Yongzheng emperor (r. 1723–35), the characters of Wang's name were replaced by others that have a similar sound. Since here Wang's name was written in its original form, the inscription was probably carved before 1722.