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I have a boat-shaped Chinese carving. 29" x 9" deep x 15"

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Hi, Robert,I have a boat-shaped...
Hi, Robert,I have a boat-shaped Chinese wood carving. 29" long x 9" deep x 15" tall. The estimated weight is 25 to 30 lbs.
This item is intricately carved of the 8 immortals, plus the baby immortal in a boat on choppy water and/or on a mountain leading into the heavens. There is one large tree from the center of the piece., rocks and trees. One immortal is on a donkey or horse. Below the immortals and dragon are what appear to be waves of water and above it becomes a mountain, especially as seen from the back, are clouds. The last two photos are of the back and bottom.I do not see any signature on the piece. It was purchased at an estate sale, but there is no information. Was supposedly handed down through the family.Let me know if you need more pics,Thanks, Nick
Submitted: 5 months ago.Category: Antiques
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Answered in 19 hours by:
3/10/2018
Antique Expert: Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher replied 5 months ago
Robert S.
Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 6,543
Experience: Expert in decorative arts especially ceramics, silver, paintings, and furniture.
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Hi Nick,

Just letting you know I got all the pictures of the magnificent wood sculpture. What a great piece of carving this is! One of the best I've seen.

I'll have an answer for you as soon as I can.

Many thanks,

Robert

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Thank you.
Antique Expert: Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher replied 5 months ago

Hi Nick,

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this, life intervened, but I should be back at my desk again tomorrow.

Many thanks for your patience!

Best wishes,
Robert.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
No problem. It happens to all of us. Nick
Antique Expert: Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher replied 5 months ago

Hi Nick,

Thanks for understanding, so here's what I can tell you about your wonderful sculpture.

This is a remarkable example of wood carving even by Chinese standards, a "scholar's rock" root-wood carving of immortals in their sacred mountain habitat. The very name of "Immortal" in Chinese 仙 combines the two characters 人 (person) and 山(mountain) which used to be written 仚 literally, a man on a mountain, living at high altitude halfway between earth and heaven. The Chinese have always admired mountain people and their reputation for longevity and a simple and often solitary and ascetic way of life, so it was an easy step to imagine them with supernatural powers and immortality.

I also like that it's shaped like a boat as the Eight Immortals are often depicted this way sailing in a vessel which, legend has it, they were obliged to construct when they came unexpectedly to an ocean on their way to attend the Conference of the Magical Peach. The boat was made of bamboo leaves, albeit the very opposite of the rocks and roots depicted here.

The full pantheon is represented in the carving and also includes the figure of Guanyin standing alone top left, and I've labelled all of them in this photo for you.

Here's the list:

  1. Lü Dongbin, The leader, with a sword on his back to dispel evil spirits.
  2. He Xiangu (Immortal Woman He) holding a lotus stem and flower over her shoulder, the only woman of the group.
  3. Cao Guojiu, (Royal Uncle Cao) dressed in official court robes.
  4. Han Xiangzi (Philosopher Han Xiang) riding a sacred crane of longevity and playing the flute (or used to be, it looks like it needs replacing with a toothpick).
  5. Li Tieguai (Iron-Crutch Li) seated, usually depicted with a magic gourd on his back dispensing healing and long life.
  6. Zhang Guolao, (Elder Zhang Guo) riding backwards on a mule holding a bamboo "fish drum".
  7. Lan Caihe - reclining with a basket of flowers, and the gay one of the group.
  8. Zhongli Quan, (Han Zhongli) bearded & bare-chested and with a fan to revive the dead which he's holdi over Li Tieguai's back.

It's not easy to date these carvings but, generally speaking, these highly detailed works of impressive scale were done in the last days of Imperial China and the first years of the new Republic, roughly from the 1900s to the 1920s which is when I would date this to. The wood was usually selected from the gnarled root of an ancient tree, possibly the hardwood, hongmu which was a favorite of the carvers at the time, and this would account for the weight. 25 - 30 lbs is substantial!

As for value, at the right auction house, and one having a specialist sale in Asian arts, this piece would sell in the range of $800 - $1250.

I would therefore insure it for $2500 as this would be a fair retail value for the piece.

Hope this helps!

Best wishes,
Robert.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Thank you for all the information. I have a similar piece a bit smaller with 3 dragons and a male figure with a whip in his hand. I will send photo's in the next few days. Nick
Antique Expert: Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher replied 5 months ago

Thanks! Look forward to seeing the next one!

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