Brush Pot (Bitong)

I am a very rare brush pot from Beijing, China carved in Indian elephant ivory and inlaid with hawksbill tortoise ivory.  Both of these animals are endangered and only antique pieces made of these materials may enter the United States.  I bear the Qianlong Period (1736-1796) six-character seal mark.

The theme, “The Seven Scholars of The Bamboo Grove,” has been delicately carved onto my exterior to embrace me.  This is a tale of seven renowned scholars of the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (220-AD) who were so offended by the corruption they saw in government that they retreated to a grove of seven bamboos to write poetry, play go (weiqi) and play the lute (qin).  This way of life became the model for the retirement of mandarins and other scholarly bureaucrats.  This also became the theme of many works of art.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Chinese and Korean scholars used brush pots to hold brushes and also rolled up pieces of paper on which they would create.  (Sometimes we were also called paper holders.)  Because of my delicate age, I merited a special place in The Maridon Museum’s Rear Gallery Time-Line Exhibit.  You will find another brush pot of jade on the scholar’s desk in the same gallery.  Please visit us.