Molded Gourd "Garlic-head" Bottle (Paozhi suantou ping)
http://www.chinese.cn 18:26, August 25, 2009 THE PALACE MUSEUM
Kangxi reign (1662-1722), Qing dynasty
Height: 13.8 cm, Mouth diameter: 4.1 cm, Foot diameter: 7.2 cm
This bottle has a slender neck, a shoulder tapering to a round and ample stomach. In the shape of a garlic head, its mouth is decorated with three lines in relief and edged with stained ivory. Incised lines from the mouth to the bottom divide the whole into six parts. The neck is covered with clouds, interlocking arcs, and lappets extending to the shoulder. The stomach is decorated with molded patterns of lotus and tendrils, while its lower part two circles in relief. The foot ring is in the form of a rose mallow with six petals, in the center of which is a mark in regular script (kai shu) in relief, reading "Appreciated and enjoyed by the Kangxi Emperor " (Kangxi shangwan).
Pao is the traditional name of the gourd (hulu). Molding and carving gourds was an outstanding handicraft. Gourd objects are the work of nature modified by the craft of man. The process relies on the plant's own growth. A carved mold with patterns is place over the young gourd, which grows to fill every tiny space and matures into a man-made shape. This design combines natural beauty and human creation, displaying Chinese traditional artistic taste. The use of gourds in their natural form dates back to the Neolithic age. In the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) the craft came into the court and became very popular. Although it sounds easy, molding a gourd is very difficult. Only one out of ten grows perfectly into the shape and pattern of the mold. Thus, the clear lines and well-proportioned patterns make this bottle a rarity. The most remarkable point is that the patterns connect perfectly, without any flaws. The mark on the underside was also created in the mold. This bottle, which served a purely decorative function, deserves high marks for its graceful shape, elaborate décor and pleasing color.