Bronze hill censer - Boshanlu

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€ 8500

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Han Dynasty, 206 BC - 220 AD
11.5 cm

J. Rawson, 'The Chinese Hill Censer, Boshan Lu: A Note on Origins, Influences and Meanings', Art Asiatiques 2006, vol. 61 no1, pp. 75-86.

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The censer is raised on a tall splayed foot which is decorated with a band of stylised scrolls, the stem encircled by a rotating four-petal flower, each petal in the shape of a ruyi head all upon a circular drip plate. The cover is cast in openwork as overlapping peaks surmounted by a standing bird. The surface has a pale-green patina with russet and green encrustation. The cover of the censer is mountain-shaped and depicts the mystical overlapping peaks of Mount Peng, regarded in Han dynasty Daoist tradition as a paradise realm for the spirits of immortals. The perforations between the peaks release the smoke from the incense, like clouds rising from the mountain. These mountain-shaped incense burners are called boshanlu, and appeared in a fully developed form during the Western Han. Later ceramic variations were produced throughout the Six Dynasties.

Vessels of this type are generally interpreted as representations of the mythical islands of xian-immortals, while their origins and employment are frequently brought into connection with Han cults of immortality. Due to the popularity of the boshanlu motif, there are several comparable Han Dynasty censers. See for example the hill censer in the collection of the British Museum, inv. no. 1936,1118.52.


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