On a joyous day walking around the Art Institute in Chicago, I spotted this beautiful, pristine celadon writing box with three ink wells and an underglaze moulded decoration of dragons amid clouds.

An ever unfurling surprise to me is the simplicity and timelessness of so much ancient pottery and porcelain, including Chinese.  If this weren’t behind a glass case and dating from the Qianlong reign (1736-95), you could pop it in your pocket and take it home to use.  While asking, as I do, who was the first person who used it, and what did they write?  Was it a scholar who bought it in a calligraphy supply shop, or was it a gift from one scholar to another, or to his lady love?  And the last person to use it, who were they?  And what did they write the last time a calligraphy brush was dipped into one of the ink wells?

Answers on a postcard – handwritten of course – in not more than 40 characters.

Source: Chicago Institute of Art, Samuel M. Nickerson Endowment (1953-308); Writing Box with Dragons amid Clouds, Fitted with Small Containers for Ink


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