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AUA Oriental Art

Rare Boshan Incense Burner Yue Celadon, Han-Jin dynasty

Rare Boshan Incense Burner Yue Celadon, Han-Jin dynasty

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The Boshan incense burner is particularly notable among Han dynasty incense burners for its unique shape. Designed to resemble a mountain or even a mythical mountain, it is characterized by its pointed peaks that rise upwards. These peaks often function as vents for the smoke, creating an effect reminiscent of a volcanic eruption.

The body of the incense burner is typically round, with multiple small peaks surrounding a central, larger peak. The material used is mainly ceramic, although there are instances where they were made of bronze. It is presumed that this incense burner was used for religious or ceremonial purposes during its time. The colors of these burners are usually in shades of pale green or greyish brown, with the application of glaze to achieve a variety of colors on occasion.

Such incense burners are often found in tombs or ritual sites, and their purpose was to burn incense for purification of space or to produce pleasant aromas. The Boshan incense burner also represents a significant cultural heritage, showcasing the craftsmanship and artistic values of the period. Today, it is considered a quintessential example of ancient Chinese art.

Period : Han-Jin Dynasty
Type : Incense Burner
Medium : Yue celadon(Stoneware)
Size : 17cm(Height), 12cm(Diameter)
Provenance : The piece was acquired in Hong Kong in the year 1999.

Condition : Good(Various minor scratches. It was confirmed that few of the horns had been repaired a very long time ago and had become discolored.)
Reference :
1) Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, Washington D.C. - ACCESSION NUMBER:S2012.9.3624a-b
2) National Museum of China
3) The Museum of East Asian Art, China

* Boshan and Eastern Culture

The Boshan incense burner’s design, which mimics a mountain, is especially symbolic. Mountains have long been considered sacred in Chinese culture, representing closeness to the heavenly realm. They are often depicted as the abode of immortals and deities. The mountain-shaped Boshan incense burner serves as a microcosmic representation of these holy mountains, with the smoke mimicking cloud and mist surrounding the peaks, enhancing the sacred ambiance during rituals.

In Confucianism, another significant aspect of Chinese culture, ritual and ancestor worship are central. Incense burners were used in ancestral rites to honor and remember the deceased. The pleasing aroma of incense was believed to summon the spirits of ancestors, allowing the living to pay their respects and seek guidance or blessings.

The Boshan incense burner would have been an important object in burial practices as well. Placed in tombs, they served both as items for the afterlife and as a means to provide a fragrant journey for the departed to the afterlife. This reflects the ancient Chinese belief in an ongoing relationship between the living and the dead.

The artistic and functional aspects of the Boshan incense burner reflect the fusion of spiritual symbolism, cultural practices, and the sophisticated aesthetic values of the time. It stands as a testament to the importance of incense in ritualistic practices and the broader cultural and religious landscape of ancient China.

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