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Catalog Data

Gourd, ivory
H x W: 16.2 x 7 cm (6 3/8 x 2 3/4 in)
19th century, or possibly early 20th century
Qing dynasty
This cricket-cage gourd has six vertical mould marks clearly visible on its exterior. A plain ivory rim supports an elaborately carved reticulated ivory lid. Carved as a moveable unit is a large tortoise, with its four feet locked into curving waves. Standing atop the tortoise (or the White Turtle) are characters from the famous Chinese novel Hsi-yu-chi (Chn), translated by Arthur Waley as Monkey. At the center is the Chinese Buddhist monk, Hsuan-tsang (Chn), with his horse at his right. Immediately behind the head of the tortoise is Monkey, while Pigsy (chu-pa-chieh, Chn) guards the rear. Another guardian figure, Sandy (sha-ho-shang, Chn) looks to the left. The scene depicts the episode from Chapter XXIX, "Hsi-yu-chi," which Waley translated as follows:
The White Turtle was nearing the shore. "I've been waiting for you all this time," he said, craning his neck. "We are very glad to meet you," said Monkey, "come a little closer in." The turtle then sidled up to the bank and Monkey led the horse on to its broad back. Pigsy squatted behind its tail, Tripitaka [i.e. Hsuan-tsang] stood on one side of its head, Sandy on the other. Monkey stood with one foot on its neck and the other on its head. "Now then, old turtle," he said," go steadily," and the turtle set off smoothly and easily across the waters, carrying the whole company uneventfully till evening fell and they had almost reached the other side." (p. 292)
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Buddhism  Search this
horse  Search this
turtle  Search this
Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)  Search this
tortoise  Search this
monkey  Search this
cricket  Search this
China  Search this
monk  Search this
Chinese Art  Search this
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection  Search this
Credit Line:
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
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Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Collection
Data Source:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery