The Chinese silversmiths of the late 19th century skilfully utilised both Chinese and Western techniques to create silverware that showcased Eastern aesthetics. The high market value of these pieces in both Eastern and Western markets attested to their artistic significance. This cross-cultural product emerged from the Sino-Western cultural exchange.
This magnificent Chinese punch bowl features four cast dragon feet, with six cloud dragons embossed and chased on a stippled matted background, all set against a sky filled with clouds. The cast handles are formed as whole dragons resting on their bifurcated tails, depicting a dragon breathing water to create fog. The bowl bears hallmarks underneath indicating Shanghai, Luen Wo (Lianhe), the artisan’s chop mark, and the quality mark 90.
Da Ji (Tai Kut in Cantonese, meaning “very auspicious” or “extremely lucky”) was a significant producer of this punch bowl and played a crucial role in the production of silverware in late 19th-century Shanghai. They were the most prolific workshop that supplied Luen Wo, one of the largest and earliest retailers established in Canton (Guangzhou) in the 1860s, which later became the retailer of this punch bowl. Cantonese merchants gradually moved to Shanghai for business after the Opium War, and Luen Wo was amongst them, located on Nanking Road from the 1870s to the 1920s.
In addition to Luen Wo, Da Ji also supplied silverware to six other Hong Kong and Canton-based retailers, including Wang Hing. The punch bowl was previously exhibited at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.