As typical scholar’s objects, bitongs are appreciated by knowledgeable collectors. The displayed brushpots are tube-shaped and feature molded bamboo grooves. They are also decorated with pine trees and pine needles bordering the top. Bamboo and pine are two trees symbolizing longevity in China and are part of the iconographic theme of the “three friends of winter”: bamboo, pine, and plum blossom. On each brush holder, a small boy perched on the edge watches over a toad at the base. This boy is Liu Hai depicted as a young boy, the Immortal, God of Fortune. Traditionally, he is found carrying a bag of coins, to attract the three-legged toad. These two characters are naturally associated in classic iconography. The three-legged toad, also known as sanzuchan in Chinese, is a popular mythical creature, associated in China with prosperity, wealth, and luck.
The pair presented is in turquoise-glazed biscuit. The turquoise glaze was obtained by adding copper oxides to the glaze mixture. These Kangxi-period pieces are known for their aesthetics and were usually intended for the Chinese elite or for export to European collectors.
A similar brushpot from Marchant and son in MARSH Sam, Brushpots, A collector’s view, p. 196 T.T Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2006, p. 150