Pair of Silver & Burlwood Tsampa Bowls
Tibet or Mongolia
diameter (each): 10.5cm, height: 9cm
This splendid pair of tsampa bowls and covers are made of turned burlwood, probably rhododendron burlwood, with silver mounts chased and engraved in high relief and inset with coral and turquoise cabochons. Made by a Chinese workshop for the Himalayan or Mongolian market, either in China or in Tibet or Mongolia, both are stamped on the silver to the base with the Chinese words for Zhu Wen (‘Full Pattern’), most probably a brand name for the workshop that made them.
The bowls and covers are of flattened semi-spherical form. The covers have a silver roundel to the top that is worked with Himalayan Buddhist symbols including the dharma wheel, the conch, the vase and the two fish, amid fine, scrolling foliage. The centres are inset with a large coral or coral substitute cabochon.
The rims of the covers and bowls are mounted with silver bands worked with repeated leafy curls and key-fret designs. The bowls sit on low feet covered with silver worked in high relief and inset with four groups of three inset stones each comprising two turquoise cabochons to either side of a coral cabochon, in box settings surrounded by pearled silver wire. (Thus each
tsampa box is inset with a total of thirteen cabochons, although one stone on the foot of one is defficient.)
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.
The two bowls and covers are in excellent condition.
Sheeks, R., ‘Tibetan and Mongolian tsampa boxes’, Arts of Asia, March-April 1996.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1909