Scroll-end Hongmu Table
A Paktong Clock Incense
Incense seals are an East Asian phenomenon. They owe their development to several things, beginning with the ancient need for Chinese officials to find more accurate ways to measure the passage of time than the current water clocks, sand clocks, and sundials. Although a very small percentage of the population required this, astronomers, palace officials, temples, night watchmen and others were dependent upon the relatively accurate burning incense measurement of passing time, especially as it could be used after dark and also be portable.
The incense seal works by a steady and controlled burning of a line of specially formulated ground incense. The nearest similar items would be a fuse cord, and these were also used in China, especially for alerting court messengers to arise in the small hours of night. By careful design of the incense "trail" as well as the incense mixture and vessel, passing hours could be measured well within the acceptable standards of time.
Metal incense seals are usually made of paktong and these are believed to have been made near or in present day Shanghai. Others are of pewter, possibly made near Canton.
Works of Art - Yongzhou snuff boxes 18th/ 19th Century
Pair of miniature snuff box & covers carved overlay Peking glass. (5173)
W 15mm H 45mm