A brush washer in the form of small white-soled shoe; this one is glazed in yellow, with raised detailing in brown. The shoe has traces of black staining in the unglazed interiors, indicating it was used for rinsing inky brushes.
These charming objects were not merely functional items, but also conversation pieces with symbolic meanings, typically emphasising scholarly virtues and expressing wishes for longevity. Often depicted in Chinese art, the shoe (xie), is a symbol for wealth, as it is similar in shape to an ingot.
Confucianism, widely practiced in China since ancient times, centred on social rules and moral values. It was thought that through scholarly pursuits and study, a good and virtuous character could be achieved. Gentlemen were expected to pass a series of provincial and imperial examinations, thereby allowing him to pursue a career in civil service – in the vast and bureaucratic governmental system. Education and accomplishment, were considered crucial for advancement in government career ultimately gaining influence and wealth. The Chinese scholar’s studio and the objects in it, were therefore an important reflection of erudition, contemplation, good governance and ultimately power.