Finely Carved Zitan Wood He He Twins

Finely carved, Chinese Zitan wood figural group of the He-he twins, one standing with lotus and bats, the other seated holding a partially opened clamshell box.

Ht 8 7/8". Minor wear; no losses. Circa early 20th Century. Unsigned. The figures, bald and smiling are commonly referred to as the Heavenly Twins or Hoho Twins or Hehe-Erxian Twins. They symbolize perfect partnership and express the idea that harmony is more profitable than strife ... so for centuries they were offered as wedding gifts in China. Harmony and Unity... what a delightful meaning!

The wood is very special as well. Among tropical hardwoods the most prized of all is zitan, an exceptionally rare species. Zitan is so rare that it is virtually unknown in the West, and until recently was thought to be practically extinct. Its tight grain and hardness make it so dense that it sinks in water. In ancient China it was said that the dark purple color of zitan resembled the color reserved for the use of Qing dynasty. As a result, only the imperial household was allowed to use zitan in China from the 17th to the 19th century. Zitan trees grow very slowly, and zitan wood has always been in short supply. Therefore, relatively few pieces of zitan furniture exist, mostly in museums or private collections. Small Zitan carvings are also prized among collectors. Unusual antique pieces can command prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Item ID: A4492

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Barkus Farm Antiques, Collectibles and Fine Art

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