at the Sign of the Hygra
2 Middleton Road
London E8 4BL
Tel: 00 44 (0)20 7254 7074
Antique Boxes in English Society
1760 -1900
Tea Caddies and Tea
Tea Caddies and Tea




Tea Chest in colored lacquer. Circa 1800.

A tea chest in  lacquer completely covered in white gold and painted in very fine black lines  and colored lacquer. 

The decoration is not in the fashion of export lacquerware, but in the ancient tradition of Chinese brush and ink sketches. 

The painting is done with assured minimal strokes.  The colors have a translucent quality. 

The presence of calligraphy points to the painter being a skilled and learned man. 

There are scenes of  Chinese life framed  with representations of flowers  all of which carry symbolic significance. 

Size: 10.4" wide by 7.4" deep by 6.2" high.

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Front: Click on image to enlarge.  

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The Chinese characters above the entrance read: Zhuang Jia Li;

Li  = plum - Tang Dynasty.
Jia =  Family 
Zhuang = House or residence.

The woman behind the screen could be the infamous Yangguifei - the "fragrant concubine".  She was said to be responsible for the downfall of the Tang Dynasty.

 The kowtowing (head to floor) man is Anlushan, who started a rebellion in 755 AD. He was of Turkish origin and had risen through the military ranks and was a favorite of  Yangguifei - the "fragrant concubine".

Top:  Click on image to enlarge. 

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Click on images to enlarge.

This looks like a scene from the Peking Opera, which utilizes symbols to communicate rank and position.






The scene suggests the Emperor with the symbolic dragon on the screen behind him, a General approaching, an advising scholar, and a watching lady. 

The auspicious characters on the banners behind the figure on the left are forms of fu meaning "blessings" and "happiness".

Back:  Click on image to enlarge. 

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The Chinese characters above the entrance read: Long Jia Zhuang;

Long  =Dragon 
Jia =  Family 
Zhuang = House or residence.

The residence of the Dragon Family. The Dragon and the Tiger are the emblems of Water and Fire and were used to represent the Emperor. 

The beard is an artistic device denoting an important scholar or sage.


 Side: Click on image to enlarge. 

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The Chinese characters above the entrance read: Zheng Hua Yuan= The Zheng Flower Gardens.

Zheng  was a feudal state which flourished around the 8th C AD. It was noted for its "Lewd songs".  


 Side: Click on image to enlarge. 

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The Chinese characters above the entrance read: Hu Shu Fung;

Hu  = Tiger. 
Shu Fung =  Study.

The Chinese Character on the hat of the left hand seated figure is Hu - Tiger. He also has  the symbol of longevity.

chinsil02.JPG (39638 bytes) Inside the Chest is in red lacquer. The white metal liner is missing and has been replaced by two lift-out trays in beech wood, which have been designed to hold playing cards.
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For the historical context of this caddy read the relevant part of Antigone's Online Antique Box Book. If you click here you will go there.
We have written a highly illustrated book on Antique Boxes and Tea caddies which is being published by Schiffer Books USA. This tea caddy has been specially photographed for inclusion.


© 2002 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly