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Subject:Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Larry Sun, Nov 17, 2019 IP: 104.142.126.185

Hi - I have this amusing small ivory (yes definitely ivory) carving of a sleeping man. He's resting on what I think is a wine flask and holds a cup in his hand.
There are a number of characters on the wine flask that I imagine is a brand of wine perhaps?
I presume the piece is Chinese and 20thc?

Any information gratefully received

Thanks

Larry







Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Mark Adams Mon, Nov 18, 2019

Hi Larry,
Your reclining man is imo Japanese and would probably date from the late Meiji period (1868-1912).
The carving is superb/master quality . I love it!
Would like to see the base if you don't mind posting.
[email protected]

Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Larry Mon, Nov 18, 2019

Mark, base is rather plain but I will take a photo and upload it later today ..Thanks

Japanese eh? I'm surprised.

Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Larry Mon, Nov 18, 2019

Mark, here's a pic of the underside -

Thanks

Larry



Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Mark Adams Tue, Nov 19, 2019

Thank you Larry for the extra picture.
Really surprised that there is no makers mark etc. Still a very nice example!
Just like the Chinese were the true masters of carving jade the Japanese were with ivory.
[email protected]

Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: I.Nagy Tue, Nov 19, 2019

Inscription on the wine barrel,
長春社康
*Changchun Social Welfare

Changchun is the capital of the Chinese Jilin province

With regards,
I.Nagy

Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Larry Tue, Nov 19, 2019

Thanks both for the replies.
The cask inscription suggested by Mr. Nagy certainly calls a Japanese origin into question ...so it seems that the piece may be Chinese after all, Mark!

After a quick search on "Changchun wine" I see that the city has a large and prosperous wine industry and that there is a traditional type of liquor known as Changchun Wine that has "antifatigue, protection against cold, strengthening yang and kidney-tonifying etc." properties. No doubt that is brew depicted in the keg upon which our sleeping man rests.

URL Title :Shantou Guangdetai Wine Factory Industrial Co., Ltd.


Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Mark Adams Wed, Nov 20, 2019

Interesting response by Mr Nagy.
I will not contest what he writes. He knows his calligraphy very well.
So, perhaps Chinese rather than Japanese after all. I was a ctually swayed by the calligraphy. I thought it was Japanese. But hey!
Still I think it is old and if Chinese would date to the late Qing period.
I note that the Changchun was named a town in 1889 and became a city in 1932.
[email protected]

Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: mikeoz Wed, Nov 20, 2019

I've been patiently waiting for one of our esteemed members to identify the figure.

This is a classic depiction of the Tang dynasty poet Li Bai. A Google search will show a number of artistic expressions of this great poet reclining like this or holding his wine cup toasting the moon.


Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Larry Thu, Nov 21, 2019

Mike, Thank you so much for identifying the subject of this carving.
I did a quick search as you suggested and even on a glance one can indeed see several iterations of Li Bai in this pose.
The carefully carved inscription on the cask remains a small unexplained piece of the puzzle ...wondering what association (if any) Changchun would have with Li Bai?

all the best

Larry

Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Super Tue, Nov 26, 2019

It appears to me there are a total of five (or more) characters and not four Chinese characters on this figurine, I flipped over this picture and re-post it here and it appears that the missing character can be
國 guo or country

It would be great if you can confirm if there are five )(or more?) Chinese characters and post better pictures of the missing character(s).
Sometime one extra character can change the final translation.
I myself agree with Mark that this is a Japanese piece, but since I am not an expert, therefore I can be wrong.

Super



Subject:Re: Ivory figure man with cup asleep
Posted By: Larry Fri, Dec 06, 2019

I only just noticed your post Super - anyway there are 5 visible characters and here is the fifth character.

cheers

Larry



Subject:國長春社康
Posted By: Super Fri, Dec 20, 2019

Thanks, Larry.

That would mean the five characters on your figurine, from right to left would be:
國長春社康
it would also mean with this one extra character, it will totally alter the original translation with only four characters.

First, the third and four character together form a compound name:
春社
https://www.wikiwand.com/zh-cn/春社
which is a very ancient traditional Chinese folk holiday. Originated as early as Shang and Western Zhou dynasty, it was a festival when men and women would get together and had fun (drinking, making love etc.....)

春 - means Spring, that is why this holiday is around Spring, on around the western calendar March 21st.
社 - means society or community.
Later this 春社 holiday became a day when people in a community will get together and celebrate,eating good food and drinking wine together, worship and made sacrifice to their local gods, visited their ancestors' graves, etc.

The purpose was to give thanks to their Gods and ancestors for good harvests and good fortunes, and asked them for more good fortune in the future. It also provided a great opportunity for everybody in the community to get together and be merry.

The first character 國, like I said before, means country, like China;
The second character, 長, means long or a long time.

康 - the five character usually means healthy or health, in this case it means prosperous and lasts a long time.

Therefore the whole sentence can be translated as:
國長
If a country will last long enough

春社康
then its Spring Community holiday (festival) will prosper (or last a long time).

(*It is because its people will be multiplied and become more and more prosperous).

In that regard, this item is more likely to be Chinese, not the original Japanese origin I thought. Hope this helps.

Super

Subject:Re: 國長春社康
Posted By: Super Sat, Dec 21, 2019

After I posted my translation yesterday, I thought about it and believe in this case while 春社 can certainly mean the Spring Commune Festival (holiday) but in this case it may be better translated as all the communes inside China.

Therefore, it may be better translated as:

If a country lasts a long time, then its communes will prosper.


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