Rectangular porcelain box?

Started by heavenguy, Sep 25, 2016, 08:33:25

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Sorry about the previous link.  I did some more googling. 

The British Museum seems to have a bunch of other objects of similar size and shape. 


Christies has a few porcelain boxes as well that are called "pillows", with the same shape holes from the Qing dynasty.

I read they were often used because of ornate female hairstyles.  Also the holes could be stuffed with herbs or money, etc.  My understanding was that they were often also used in burials where I suppose comfort didn't really matter. 

The V&A has an interesting article about them. 

It has an interesting citation.  (8) Chinese Ceramic Pillows From Yeung Wing Tak Collection. Osaka: The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, 1984: 16. This comprehensive source states that it has so far been impossible to confidently determine the use of pillows. The range of possible uses that are listed indicate this: ?1) funerary models, 2) arm-rests, 3) ?pulse? pillows [support during medical examinations], 4) ?sleeve? pillows, 5) neck-rests?.


We were talking about a specific type of porcelain presented by heavenguy, not just any. The one on Gotheborg, is not a pillow, it for taking the pulse in acupuncture, etc., whatever there is written. I live in a Chinese environment and know it from here. The problem I was not sure first was only size.

Porcelain pillows are not rare, to the contrary, there are many attractive shapes. However, none has such a square shape as these that were used by acupuncturists. Pillows usually have rounded edges, and they are slightly curved inward to fit the human body.
I suggest you take some box with similar dimensions as those given for items shaped like teh one below and try to lay your head on it. :-)
You will see that it is impossible to sleep on something like this. They are too small. Porcelain pillows are much larger (wider and higher) and more ergonomic in shape. There are some interesting pillows made in the Song dynasty, especially those from Cizhou kiln. Some have the shape of a child.

The rectangular shape/size of the one presented below seems to have appeared only in the 20th century. Some are transfer printed. They are not a rarity. Unfortunately, they are often misnamed pillows (for sleeping) by those who do not know their actual use.
Careful, there are many modern fakes on the market, both of sleeping pillows and those used for pulse feeling in Chinese medicine.

I do not know what you mean with the citations, but I wish you people could retain some objectivity and do not just repeat book knowledge of others. I assure you that even in academia not everyone is immersed enough into the life and culture of China to know for sure what things are/were used for, which are completely foreign to their life. Even here in Taiwan those not collecting antiques often do not know the porcelain pulse feeling pad, although these are often just vintage. They only know the current ones now in actual use.

Some other things that are often misrepresented in the west are: water pipes (as opium pipes), urinals (as ewers, etc), soap boxes with lids and cricket containers are often misnamed... It is recommended to just keep looking for answers in the Chinese world, instead of second or third hand information in the west, if  you are not sure about the purpose or use of an item.


I'm not sure I would be comfortable sleeping on any hard pillow, regardless if they were square shaped or slightly curved.  Seems a bit uncomfortable if you were to move while sleeping.

After looking up the term ??? on baidu, and it showing tons of photos resembling the one that heavenguy posted, I guess they were "pillows" used for taking the pulse.  Although others appeared to be much more ergonomical and not just a box shape like this one. 

As to the citation, I just found it interesting that there appeared to be so much controversy as to how these things were used.