A rare and beautiful pair of large Chinese silk and painted paper collages
from Pun Lun of Hong Kong and Canton,
each of rectangular form worked in a primary palette of cobalt blue and turquoise with terracotta, cream, black and silver detailing, the materials include padded silk, painted paper, metallic textiles and sequins of various colours, exquisitely depicting two entertainments staged at the Imperial Court; in one actors perform a version of the Ming period poem ‘The Drinking Parlour at Lake Dongting’ and in the other scenes from the book entitled ‘All Deities Peace at Court’ held by the Master of Ceremonies. Framed and glazed with the paper label “PUNLUN. No 16 New China Road, CANTON…(No 946 Queen Road, HONGKONG”). Chinese, c1880.
Overall H 37 ½”, W 53” £36,500
Footnote: Pun Lun (璸綸) was one of the pioneer photographic studios in late 19th century China, which also sold silks, crepe de chine, ivory, lacquer ware, mats etc. The business started in Hong Kong circa 1860 and was still trading in the early 20th century. The proprietor Wen Dinan was a native Cantonese, and his father owned a shop called Pun Lun at Dasen Street in the trading port of Canton (Guangzhou). Their textiles were manufactured in Suzhou and Hangzhou.
The poem is about a well-known drinking parlour near the Yueyang Tower, at the scenic Lake Dongting. The sun is setting over the lake, a large rainbow is spread across the sky and the autumnal moon is reflected on the lake. In hustle and bustle of the city a number of drinking parlours are busy with the trade. The Yangzi River is white under the moonlight and fish are jumping in the ripples of the water. The sandbar is lit under the yellow moonlight and a gaggle of geese rest on the sandbar. Two fishermen are beckoning each other and about to enter into the parlour Lu-hua.
The poet Kuang Lu (1604–1650), of Hainan County, Guangdong, was a Ming dynasty scholar, specializing in poetry, literature, and calligraphy. In 1634, seventh year of the Chongzhen Emperor’s reign (崇禎七年), he offended the magistrate of Hainan County and was exiled to Guangxi province where he became the scribe for five clans, the Cen, Lan, Hu, Hou, and P’an (岑、藍、胡、侯、槃). Next he was employed by Yunshan (雲鄲娘), a female warrior from an ethnic Chinese tribe and wrote Chiya (赤雅), now considered an authoritative book on the ethnic minority cultures and geography of the Guangxi region. Finally, he moved to the court of King Tang in the South, who sent him to Guangzhou as an emissary to the Yongli Emperor. When the Manchurian armies conquered the Ming Empire, Kuang Lu committed suicide while embracing a traditional Chinese zither, a weapon and a classical text.