STN-406 A Pair of Ming Dynasty Stone Bases with Carved Floral Design

(一對大型明代雕花石座) This is a very interesting Ming Dynasty carved stone base out of a pair. They are quite large, probably two feet or more in diameter each. The base is carved out of one piece of stone with three different shapes in one: the round top (圓), the hexagonal middle (六角), and a plain square bottom (方 ). Both the top and the middle section are carved with bold designs of different floral patterns with fully open blossom facing towards the front-a pattern seen often in Chinese woodwork from the Ming period. The carved design in the middle section, with various different depths of the surfaces, looks like a varied Ruyi (如意; to-your-wish) design with the flowers shaping like clouds, carved in a relieved style, and being housed in two cave-like spaces; while the flowers (with leaves) on the top section, though also carved in the relieved style, are contrarily and fully exposed to the view. This kind of playing with the concept of the Yin (陰; 陰刻) and the Yang (陽; 陽刻) is fairly common in Chinese woodwork and in stone work as well. Also, when one looks closely at the Ruyi design, the whole design actually looks like a face (臉; 獸面) as well with the middle being the “nose” and flowers being the “eyes”. And when looking at that “nose”, one also sees a slender figure-like carved feature. This type of personification is not uncommon in Chinese woodwork and other types of Chinese carving as well. This piece reminds me of the saying “seeing the world through a grain of sand” besides that I love its boldness in design!

A Ruyi design often can shape like a cloud (雲朵), a Ling-Zhi (靈芝; Chinese medicinal mushroom), or a heart shape.

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