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Duan-Inkstone with Dragon Design
Duan-Inkstone with Dragon Design
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The elliptical ink stone is carved in relief with a pair of dragons emerging from clouds and surging waves. The central dragon twists its body, while the one at the right raises its head, with its tail hidden in the waves. Gold nuggets are inlaid between them, creating a design of two dragons playing with pearls. Under the dragon's body, three ink wells connect each other at the lower part of the surging waves. At the bottom of the ink stone, a strong gust of wind whips the current into two whirlpools. On the left side of the ink stone inscribed in clerical script (lishu) is "Humbly crafted by the minor courtier Liu Yuan in the fifth lunar month, the eighteenth year of the Kangxi reign [1679]". After the inscription is a square name seal "Yuan" in seal script (zhuanshu). The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) wrote a laudatory inscription which is carved on the base. Liu Yuan was a versatile court artist, who specialized in painting, calligraphy, and sculpture. He designed his works on a piece of paper before production. This ink stone is the only extent work by him. The ink stone has a red sandal wood case, the lid of which is inlaid with jade ornament and inscribed with the Qianlong Emperor's poem as well as a lyric by the Song Dynasty scholar-official Su Shi (1037-1101).

History of the Object
The Duan stone, named after the Duanxi River in South China's Guangdong Province, is ideally suited to be crafted into ink stones - the purplish black stone is hard but extremely smooth. It has natural "roasted rouge stains", which indicate the high quality of the stone.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Duan stone 
Measurements
Width 18.2 cm. Height 3.6 cm. Length 22 cm.  
Creator name
Liu Yuan 
Creator date
17th Century 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 17th century ~ AD 17th century 
Creation date
17th Century; Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) 
Function
Ink stone 
Acquisition
Collection of the Imperial Palace 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
The Palace Museum 
Museum
The Palace Museum 
Credit line
 

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