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Image of the 4 treasures


October 25 - December 14, 1997

      Chinese scholars have throughout the centuries collected art objects that decorate and complement their desks and studios. Many of these objects have functional purposes ranging from brushes to arm rests; others are more inspirational and range from sculptural pieces to paintings. As these items are close companions to the daily scholarly pursuits, they tend to share an intimacy with the owner. They are exquisite in detail and superb in craftsmanship. This exhibition will display approximately 150 art objects from the collection of Jizhen Zhai (“Studio of Accumulated Treasures”), ranging from the 16th to the 20th century. The show will provide a comprehensive examination of the Chinese scholars’ accouterments through a variety of selected items that include brushes, bitongs (brush holders), inkstones, rocks, incense burners, seals, table screens, traveling boxes, sculpted animals and figures, cups, paintings, and gourds.

Picture of Stone       Chinese scholars select and display their favorite art objects in their studios to create a special environment. Some objects such as Taihu rocks and jade carvings in the shape of miniature mountains imitate nature’s beauty in the outside world. These selected objects become the scholars’ daily friends and companions. On a superficial level, these objects are for both functional and inspirational purposes. On a deeper level, they are for the spiritual quest into the realm of the otherworldly and for the philosophical union (oneness) of heaven, earth, and man.

     Other objects were used primarily for fun and diversion such as cricket holders. Many containers for crickets were fashioned from gourds. It was a scholarly tradition to write poems and essays which related to the sounds of crickets and the chilly autumn weather of solitude and sadness. Some gourds were left natural, without design; others were molded by enclosing a natural gourd on the vine inside a wooden mold. The pressure of the growing gourd into the mold would cause the design to be impressed into the gourd’s outer surface or crust without damage. A knife, sometimes a pin, was then gently used to highlight the impressed design. The gourd was later stained and lacquered and the neck fitted for a rim which would hold the reticulated cover.

Picture of an Ink Block       The art objects in this exhibition can be classified into groups according to themes and subject matter that reflect this special spiritual and philosophical quest. This includes objects with functional purpose such as brushrests, brushpots, wrist-rests, ink, water-droppers, and weights. Others with purely artistic or decorative purpose include Taihu rocks, table screens, paintings, and small carvings made of jade, bamboo, soapstone, rhinoceros horn, or turquoise. Most importantly, it is the symbolic meaning and artistic superiority of these objects that generate the true Chinese scholar’s spirit in this exhibition.

     This exhibition is organized by the Chinese Culture Center. Weatherhill has published a fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition. Each object featured in the exhibition is illustrated in the publication. The catalogue will be available for sale in our gallery shop.

Picture of a Brush Picture of a Holder

     The exhibition is on view from October 25 to December 14, 1997. The Chinese Culture Center is located at 750 Kearny St., Holiday Inn, 3rd Floor. Admission is free. Gallery hours are Tuesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information, please call: (415) 986-1822.

The calligraphy painting used as a background on this page is from The Matter of Taste, an exhibition project organized by the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Copyright 1997 by the San Francisco Chinese Culture Center. All rights reserved.

Updated: February 11, 1998

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Chinese Culture Center
750 Kearny Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108

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