This small rock crystal brush pot is in the shape of a gnarly pine tree trunk and lingzhi mushrooms around its base. It is freely carved in low and high relief. Such elegant and symbolic objects, would have been intended for use in the Chinese scholars studio.
Colourless crystal quartz was particularly valued for its transparency, its name Shuijing – literally meaning water essence or crystalized water. As such it was a symbol for purity, clarity & honour. To the Confucian scholar, crystal was a material likened to ice; not meaning coldness, but rather transparency with nothing to hide. Prized for its natural beauty, this stone also signified solitude, as well as sobriety in behaviour and thought. As a result rock crystal was a popular material for scholar’s studio objects, reflecting the literati’s pure thoughts.
Rock Crystal (水晶), the purest member of the quartz family, is clear and colourless like glass. Due to its hard composition, it has to be shaped by abrasion. Using a treadle drill and basic manual tools, objects were hollowed and carved which took a tremendous amount of skill and patience. The natural shape and colour of the unworked crystal, was often brilliantly utilized by the carvers to further enhance the design.
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (acc.nr. 0.61& A1946), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (acc.nr.02.18.831) and the Aberdeen Archive & Gallery (acc nr ABDMSO24914)., all have a smaller rock crystal pine tree vase. The Palace Museum, Beijing has a small vase with a pine tree and a monkey.