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Agarwood carving of the Nine Elders of Xiangshan. Yang Weizhan, 1741, Qing dynasty

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Agarwood carving of the Nine Elders of Xiangshan. Yang Weizhan
1741, Qing dynasty
H. 18 cm;L. 12 cm;W. 9 cm


This scene of the Nine Elders of Xiangshan was carved from a single piece of agarwood, and depicts the literary gathering at Xiangshan in Luoyang during the fifth year of the Huichang reign of Emperor Wuzong of Tang (845 CE) that was attended by the poet Bai Juyi and eight other friends, all retired officials over the age of seventy. An inscription near the base of the work states that it was respectfully carved in the sixth year of the Qianlong reign by the Guangdong ivory craftsman Yang Weizhan. Upon a cliff face in the front part of the work is inscribed the poem, "On the agarwood carving of the Nine Elders of Xiangshan," which is also included in the First Compilation of Imperial Verses by the Emperor Gaozong of Qing. In carving the front part of this work, the artist used a hatchet to cleave along the natural grain of the wood, supplemented by light embellishment, to create the image of soaring mountain cliffs. The elders are grouped at the foot of the mountain, either sitting, standing, or writing on the cliff walls, and are accompanied by a servant boy squatting to the side, holding a fan and engaged in cooking. The mountain rocks were formed using a knife to lightly carve and pare the wood material, with the natural grain of the wood retained in the remaining uncleaved parts. The work is affixed to a dyed ivory stand. The work makes use of precious materials, and the craftsmanship is simple and elegant. Despite the small size of the work, the ingenious composition creates an impression of vastness, making this one of the most exquisite works made for display during the Qianlong era. According to the Imperial Workshop Archives, this work and its accompanying case decorated with silk embroidery was inducted into the top-class collection of the Qianqing Palace in the seventh year of the Qianlong reign.