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Chinese Cloisonné Tuan Unicorns/Fu Dogs

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China Anonymous, Chinese
Chinese Cloisonné Tuan Unicorns/Fu Dogs, c. 1770
Enamel on Bronze
21 1/2 in. x 11 5/8 in. x 14 in. (54.61 cm x 29.53 cm x 35.56 cm)


Object Type: Cloisonné
Technique: Cloisonné
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Dorothy Adler Routh
Accession Number: 91.8.3.a, b


Commentary
"From the Ch'ien-lung [Qianlong] era (1736-1796) or earlier, this cloisonné "Tuan," or unicorn of powerful simplicity, is a symbol of an enlightened government administration. According to the Fu Jui Chih volume of the Sung Shu, the "Tuan" can travel great distances in a short span of time and is said to appear at the court of a benevolent and virtuous Emperor with a Heaven-sent book as a symbol of its homage."

Tomoo Ogita, "Antique Chinese Cloisonné of the Ming and Early Ching Dynasties, from the Dorothy Adler Routh Collection," 1973.

Marks
There is a white label on the belly of one figure that reads "24."

Medium
Enamels on bronze, with some gilding.

Object Description
Pair of Chinese cloisonné luduan incense burners. The round and stocky beasts stand on four stiff legs with gilded and clawed feet. The head looks upward, with a single horn curving backwards and the mouth slightly open. The horn is detachable and opens to the hollow interior where incense can be burnt, the smoke escaping through a large hole at the back of the creatures’ throats. The broad ribbed chest and stomach is colored in speckled red and white enamel; the blue body is not scaled, but covered with scrolling flowers. Red flames rise from each luduan’s legs, indicative of its mythical and revered status. These legendary creatures can distinguish between good and evil, and appeared during the late Ming and early Qing in the form of twin incense burners flanking the imperial throne.

The luduan stand on cloisonné bases with an applied thin sheet of bronze to simulate a draped cloth decorated in a tortoise-shell pattern with flowers within each hexagonal cell.

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