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image X149

A Chinese printed scroll dated Kangxi 60 i.e. 1721

Museum number: X149

Curatorial note

This scroll was printed in Xinchang in Xhejiong Province (near Shaoxing). It is headed 'A complete illustration/chart of sagely learning' (translation).

The text includes a 'preface' at the top with, below it, various diagrams relating to the work of different Chinese emperors and mystics. Dr Frances Wood has observed that it is 'a very rare piece of Chinese pseudoscience ... all about divination. .... and I think such things are very rare indeed as they would not often have been kept in China or accorded space in a respectable Confucian library'.1

It seems likely that this rare item was acquired by Soane as a curiosity of antiquarian interest. It does appear in the original inventories of Soane's collection, finalised in 1837. It was at that time in the Strong Closet (where Soane kept plate and valuable MSS) and described as 'A tin case containing a Hindoo or Chinese Alphabet' (AB inventory, p.338). On 22 April 1837 it appears in a MS list of the contents of various closets described in the same way as 'tin case with Hindoo or Chinese alphabet'. The tin case or tube in which it is still stored is labelled in George Bailey's handwriting (the first Curator of the Museum, who had worked for Soane since 1807) 'roll of Chinese dynasties'.

1 Unpublished description in the Museum's research files.

We are grateful to Dr Frances Wood, formerly of the British Library, for her help in identifying and describing this scroll in 1999.


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk