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Chinese mechanical toy “Celestial boat”
673-278
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The mechanical toy called “Celestial boat” is a unique exhibit of Peter the Great’s time.

History of the Object
This mechanical boat is a model of a traditional pleasure boat of a nobleman accompanied by servants, musicians and dancers. It is made of wood covered with ivory and tin. The figures of musicians and dancers are carved of ivory, and the figure of the patron God is made of amber. Inside the boat, there is a hidden mechanism that can be wound up to give effect to small wheels located at the bottom of the boat. They set motion to the boat itself, as well as to the figures of the musicians and the dancer. The craftsmen may have aspired to create an image of the Celestial boat. In the 3rd century BC, the founder of the first all-China Empire Chin Shih Huang, who was fascinated by the idea of eternal life, sent expeditions to the faraway seas whose purpose was to find islands inhabited by the immortal celestials – amazing creatures who master the time and the elements and who sail the seas on wonderful vessels that can withstand any storm – the celestial boats.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
elephant bone, tin, amber, wood 
Measurements
Height 30 cm Length 50 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
18th Century 
Function
Toy 
Acquisition
It was acquired in Beijing in 1719-1720 when the Russian Embassy was headed by L. Izmailov, Ambassador Extraordinary. At that time, there was a watchmaker’s shop at the court of the Kangxi Emperor, where Chinese craftsmen made such mechanical toys under the guidance and supervision of European Jesuit missionaries. 
Copyright
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) RAS 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Russian Federation 
Museum
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) Russian Academy of Sciences 
Credit line
 

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