Pair of Lidded Wooden Bowls with Silver Mounts
Mongolia or China
early 20th century
height: 9.5cm, diameter: 12.5cm, combined weight: 763g
This splendid pair of bowls and covers are made of turned wood, possibly rhododendron wood. They have very finely chased silver mounts. The lids are also of wood, covered with chased silver. Probably they were made to store food, possibly tsampa. (Tsampa boxes are closely related to the tea bowls used in Mongolia and Tibet in terms of their form and the materials used in their construction. They were used to hold and serve tsampa, a ubiquitous Himalayan staple food made from ground parched barley grain mixed with salted yak buttered tea.)
They are unmarked but clearly are the product of a Chinese craftsman either in China or in Mongolia. Almost certainly they were made for the Mongolian market.
The bowls and covers are of flattened semi-spherical form. The covers have a central silver roundel to the top that is filled with the Chinese
shou longevity motif. This is surrounded by a wide border that is decorated with five prominent bats amid flowers and petals. Longevity is one of the Five Blessings (longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and a peaceful death) in Chinese symbolism. The Chinese word for ‘bat’ is a homonym for ‘good fortune’ or ‘happiness’. Bats used in combination with the shou symbol suggests a long, happy life.
The shoulders of the bowls are decorated with Himalayan Buddhist symbols including the dharma wheel, the endless knot, the vase, and the two fish, amid fine, scrolling foliage.
The silver borders that cover the foot rings and above of each bowl are similarly decorated.
The two bowls and covers are in excellent condition. The silver work is of a very high standard.
Sheeks, R., ‘Tibetan and Mongolian tsampa boxes’, Arts of Asia, March-April 1996.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2878