This small, elegant solid-silver ewer was made to be used on a family altar in a peranakan (localised) Chinese family home. It would have been used to pour out wine into tiny teacups as offerings for the spirits of visiting family ancestors. Alternatively, it might have been commissioned for use in the ritualised tea ceremony for a local Chinese wedding during which tea is symbolically poured.
The body of the ewer tapers outwards and has a spout and handle which emulates the segments of bamboo. The lid has a bamboo-style finial which rises from bamboo leaves. The sides are engraved lightly with leafy sprays.
Java has a large population of Indonesian Chinese who have been in Indonesia for many generations and who became successively localised. Most were unable to read or write in Chinese and so, during the colonial era, for many Dutch and Indonesian became their first language. And so it is with this ewer: the shoulder of the ewer is engraved in mock Gothic lettering giving several Indonesian Chinese names (using the Dutch formulation of Chinese names) and a date which is indistinct but is probably 17-11-20. The inscription seems to read: ‘Amarhoem Tio Sik Hoo dari Bereem Sing Khie Thwee 17-11-20.’
The ewer is free of dents. There is some age-related wear to the inscription. It stands flatly and evenly. These are no maker’s or other marks.
Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Silver: A Collector’s Guide, Times International, 1984.