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Stacking Cosmetic Boxes Incised with Peacocks and Peonies

A stack of four cosmetic boxes are made of Chinese Xiuyan jade (a green jade, named for the occurrence at Xiuyan, Liaoning Province, China) in the shape of a cylinder, with a straight side and a slightly concave interior.

Stacking Cosmetic Boxes Incised with Peacocks and Peonies 

 
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Jin Dynasty (1115–1234)


Height 15.5 cm, diameter 12.8 cm


A stack of four cosmetic boxes are made of Chinese Xiuyan jade (a green jade, named for the occurrence at Xiuyan, Liaoning Province, China) in the shape of a cylinder, with a straight side and a slightly concave interior. There are incised patterns on the surface of the boxes. The first-layer cosmetic box lies on top of the second with the first-layer interface imbedded into the second, and so on down to the bottom box. The round surface of the first-section lid is moulded with a peacock turning its head backwards surrounded by blooming peonies, and its exterior is incised with bow strings and two-tier reversed leaves. The exterior of the second and third sections are incised with bow strings and peonies with broken branches. The bottom-section is flat and incised with double bow strings and upright leaves. 


Along with the four make-up boxes, five other round boxes with floral patterns were unearthed. They were all found in the fourth-layer box containing white powder. All the five tiny boxes are the same in shape and slightly different in size and decoration. In terms of shape, the five boxes all have a flattened cover and bottom, and straight sides. The boxes have diameters varying from 4 cm to 4.7 cm and height varying form 1.8 cm to 2.1 cm. In terms of decorative patterns, the surface of the cover is incised with two bow strings and the inner wall with a flower.


This is the first time that cosmetic articles of a definite dynasty were unearthed from an aristocratic Jurchen tomb in Beijing, thus providing valuable materials for studying the lifestyle and customs of women in the Jin Dynasty.


 
 

​Original Stele Inscribed with the Memorial on Announcement Commanded by Jia Sidao

Xuan Shi Biao, or the Memorial on Announcement, refers to the official memorial submitted by Zhong Yao (151-230), a chancellor of the kingdom of Wei in the Three Kingdoms period, to Cao Pi (187-226), first emperor of Wei.

​Original Stele Inscribed with the Memorial on Announcement Commanded by Jia Sidao 

 
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Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)


24.4 cm in height, 62.5 cm in width and 11.3 cm in thickness


Xuan Shi Biao, or the Memorial on Announcement, refers to the official memorial submitted by Zhong Yao (151-230), a chancellor of the kingdom of Wei in the Three Kingdoms period, to Cao Pi (187-226), first emperor of Wei. Zhong Yao wrote the Memorial to persuade Cao Pi to accept the pledge of allegiance of Sun Quan (182-252), founder of the kingdom of Eastern Wu. The original work of the Memorial was lost during the reign of Emperor Mu (343-361) of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. The copy of the Memorial passed down to this day is, in fact is the version written by calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303-361) of the Western Jin Dynasty imitating the original work of Zhong Yao. 


This piece of work was thus named because it is the original stele into which Jia Sidao (1213-1275), prime minister of the Southern Song Dynasty, commanded artisans to inscribe Wang Xizhi's calligraphy of Zhong Yao's Memorial of Announcement. The stele was inscribed on the right side of the first line of the calligraphy with "Xizhi imitated Zhong Yao's calligraphy" written by Zhao Ji, Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty (1082-1135) on its frontage with a cross-page seal with Chinese characters "Xuan He" (Emperor Huizong's era name, from 1119-1125) on its surface, with the seal with four Chinese characters "Jia Si Dao Yin" (meaning "Sealed by Jia Sidao") in seal script, and with a calabash-shaped seal with Chinese characters "Yue Sheng" (Yuesheng is the alternative name of Jia Sidao) also in seal script. 


After Jia Sidao's death, the original stele inscribed with the Memorial of Announcement was buried deep underground and it was only unearthed in the late Ming Dynasty from the site of Banxian Cottage of the Jia Family in Hill Ge, Hangzhou. Since then, the stele was collected by curio hunters one after another. The back side of the stele carries an inscription with a preface and a postscript written by Jin Nong (1687-1763), a popular painter and calligrapher of the Qing Dynasty. On the surface of the auxiliary stele to the original one there are seals and signets of collectors and connoisseurs or prefaces and postscripts written by them. 


The stele is the only surviving one among all that inscribed with the Memorial on the Announcement in the Song Dynasty. The original and authentic writing by Zhong Yao had long been lost, nor could the Wang Xizhi's imitation be found. The only surviving version through a thousand years of history is the original stele. 


Compared to other works of Zhong Yao, the Memorial of Announcement represents a more mature style of regular script (kaishu). In terms of calligraphy technique, every stroke is powerful and vigorous. In terms of structure, the characters are simple, but decorous. In terms of style, Zhong Yao's characters are broad and rectangular. All these reflect the fact that calligraphy in Wei and Jin dynasties was assuming a more mature artistic style of regular script, laying the foundation for the thriving of regular script in the Tang Dynasty. Therefore, Zhong Yao's Memorial of Announcement lives up to its reputation of the originator of the regular script art in Chinese calligraphy history. 


 
 

Stele Made on the Order of Qing Emperor Qianlong

The Stele made on the order of Emperor Qianlong is a grade one collection item of the Capital Museum.

Stele Made on the Order of Qing Emperor Qianlong 

 
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The 18th year of Emperor Qianlong's Reign (1753)


Height 6.7m


The Stele made on the order of Emperor Qianlong is a grade one collection item of the Capital Museum. The stele is made of white marble and consists of a stele top, a main body and a Sumeru-shaped pedestal. It is 6.7 meters in total height and weighs over 40 tons. 


The stele top is in the style of pyramid hip roof, with dragons at four ridges and a spherical polyhedron atop. In the lower side parts of the stele top display patterns such as clouds, dragons and Bodhi leaves in relief. The main body of the stele is inscribed with inscriptions bordered by dragons in relief. On the four sides of the stele is inscribed with the poems of Emperor Qianlong, namely, The Royal City and The Imperial City in Chinese and Manchu languages, which were written by the Emperor in the 18th year of his reign. The stele has a Sumeru-shaped pedestal contracted in the middle decorated with curling floral patterns. Vertically, the pedestal has lotus petals in its central parts and auspicious animals and peonies on its sides, all in reliefs. 


Coincidently, there is another stele made on the order of the Emperor inscribed with The Royal City and The Imperial City, which is outside Yongdingmen Avenue in Beijing. It is called the Yan Abutment. The two steles are similar in size, inscription and many other aspects, but have nuanced differences. For instance, the Yan Abutment has inscriptions on its south and north sides, each side inscribed with one of the two articles in both Chinese and Manchu languages, but no inscription on its east and west sides. In comparison, the stele collected in the Capital Museum has inscriptions of The Royal City and The Imperial City in Chinese on its south and north sides and the two texts in Manchu language on its east and west sides. 


During Emperor Qianlong's reign, there was a landscape of "one river, one bridge and two steles" in southern Beijing, the latter being the Stele Made by Emperor Qianglong's Order and collected in the Capital Museum and the square stele near Zhengyang Bridge to memorize the dredging of the river ordered by Emperor Qianlong respectively erected on the east and west sides of the bridge. The stele now collected by the museum was moved to the Duomu Palace on the western side of the bridge in the 32nd year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1907) and to the wall outside the Temple of Agriculture in the period of the Republic of China and then to the northeast corner within. It was buried in the 1930s during the Japanese invasion. Not until the spring of 2005 were its top, main body and pedestal unearthed successively under the Temple of Agriculture. The stele became part of the Capital Museum collection on November 10, 2006. In the same year, it was displayed as an exhibit in the southeast corner of the museum's north square.