This intriguing Chinese zhadou is intricately carved of fine cinnabar lacquer. A work of exceptional artistry, this covered bowl is adorned with an intricately carved floral motif on all surfaces, including the cover and the wide rim. Also known as a cuspidor or spittoon, this rare container would have been used by members of the imperial family and scholar- officials at the court. Carved during the Kangxi period (1662-1722), this charming piece exhibits the high detail and charm associated with items from that period, making it a true treasure.
Early 18th century (Kangxi Dynasty)
6 ¼” wide x 3 ¼” high
Cinnabar has been revered for its color all over the world. It has been found in the royal burial chambers of the Mayas, in the rituals of India, and in the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome. In China, cinnabar and gold were the two most important elements in alchemy. Mined since the Neolithic Age, cinnabar is the ore of mercury, and as such, it can be incredibly toxic, especially when mining. In fact, during the Roman Empire, miners at Spain’s Almadén mine in Spain were frequently exposed to mercury fumes, and the subsequent, often fatal, sickness was considered an occupational hazard.
The most popular known use of cinnabar is in Chinese carved lacquer-ware, a technique that is believed to have originated in the Song Dynasty, in which cinnabar is ground to a powder and added to clear lacquer. As with mining, there was inherent danger of mercury poisoning for those who carved the lacquer, as mercury was also released into the air when artisans ground the pigments. Most antique cinnabar lacquer-ware in existence has been coated with a clear protective film, so that mercury is prevented from leaking out of it, especially if handling of it is kept to a minimum.
A spittoon of the same type of construction is illustrated in Treasures of the Chinese Scholar by Fang Jing Pei, page 151