Dali marble stone in a wooden frame
Stone diam. 50 cm; wooden frame 89 cm * 89 cm
Marble panels of this type, where the natural markings suggest ink landscapes, were treasured by scholars and popular in China from the Song dynasty onwards. In their combination of natural materials and the hand of man in isolating and enhancing them, they are similar to the strangely shaped rocks so beloved of the Chinese literati.
The term Dali stone refers today to all calcitic and dolomitic marbles, but traditionally referred to white marbles with black veining evoking ink painting. These stone comes from the Diancang mountain range west of Dali in Yunnan province.
These marbles were used in inlaid furniture or mounted as walls or table screens. The term “dreamstone” used in the West, was created by French sinologist Jacques Beurdeley, who described these semi-abstract "shihua" as “pierres de reve” (see Tsang and Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, and Richard Rosenblum, Art of the Natural World).
The “stone paintings” were displayed in scholar’s reading rooms and gardens, as well as in imperial pavilions.