An Yixing tripod water dropper

19th century

The water dropper is naturalistically moulded as a conch shell supported on three small conch-shaped feet. The aperture in the tip of the shell forms the spout, while the snail-shaped opening is at the top of the vessel. The stoneware is of rich purplish brown colour.

8.8 cm wide



A Dutch private collection

Water droppers were used for the preparation of ink and were indispensable on the scholar’s desk. Small amounts of water were dropped from the spout onto the slab of an inkstone during the grinding of the ink cake.

The conch, hailuo, comes from the ocean and is thus a symbol for sea or ocean, hai. It is also one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, ba jixiang. The present water dropper is resting on three shell-shaped feet, with a fourth small shell lying on top concealing the opening. Four conch shells, sihailuo, is a rebus for ‘May there be peace in the universe’, sihai shengping.

An example of a water pot in the shape of two conches signed by the famous potter Chen Mingyuan was formerly in the collection of Gerald Hawthorn. A similar example in light yellowish clay bearing the studio mark wenji is illustrated by Rinaldi.

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