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Brush and lid

Brush and lid

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1580-1620 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved red lacquer

  • Credit Line:

    Gift of Sir Harry Garner and Lady Garner

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    China, room 44, case 65

This lacquer brush was part of a set used for writing, calligraphy and painting. The design combines bamboo, prunus and pine, also known as the ‘Three friends of winter’ (sui han san you), symbols of longevity, integrity and fortitude against adverse conditions; the pine and bamboo are evergreens and the prunus is the first to blossom at the end of winter.

Literary skills were essential requirements to pass the civil examination to become an imperial officer, and painting or calligraphy were widely practised by the educated class. As brush, ink, paper and inkstone were indispensable tools for these activities, they were also known as the 'Four treasures of Study' (wen fang si bao), and became symbols of literacy, refinement, and high status.

Physical description

Brush with lid made of red lacquer, carved with a design of bamboo, prunus and pine against a square diaper ground on both parts

Place of Origin

China (made)


ca. 1580-1620 (made)


Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Carved red lacquer


Length: 23 cm

Descriptive line

Brush and lid, carved red lacquer, China, Ming dynasty, ca. 1580-1620

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The British Museum (ed.) Chinese and Associated Lacquer from the Garner Collection. London: The British Museum, 1973, cat. 83
Kerr, Rose (ed.) The T.T.Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art. Chinese Art and Design. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1991, pp. 126-127

Labels and date

Brush for writing or painting, carved lacquer on wood
1580-1620, Ming dynasty
Garner gift [June 1991]

Production Note

From register: the two parts, although near-contemporary, may have belonged to different brush-holders





Subjects depicted

Bamboo; Pine; Prunus



Collection code


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