A Chinese Yi powder flask
Yi people, Southern China – 19th century
Materials: Wood, Lacquer, Bamboo
The Yi or ‘Nuoso‘ people, also formerly known as ‘Lolo‘ are a series of several ethnic minorities which primarily live in the Yunnan province of China, but also Thailand and Vietnam. The Yi people are one of the 56 minorities in China. The history of the Yi people goes as far back as Tang Dynasty (618-907) and their arms and armour developed little. The armour is based on lacquered hide, laced together with leather strings. A warriors outfit could exist of a body armour, a cuirass protecting both front and back, a helmet wich was often made of a lacquered skull with an attached lammelar neckpiece. Armguards protecting the upper arms and shoulders and other equipment such as a powder flask, arrow quivers and shields.
The oldest armour of the Yi people known is from the Dali period (937-1382) and is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The designs on the lacquer armour is what changed mostly during time. Varying from archaic forms from the early Chinese history, until a more ‘meander‘ type pattern later. Most armour was produced up till the 19th century and occasionally worn for ceremonial use up till the 2oth century.
The powder flask:
Stylistically shaped, made of wood with a wide base ending in a fluted mouth to facilitate in pouring the right amount of gunpowder into the barrel. The decoration shows a nicely patinated ‘meander’ or ‘greek roll’ motif with yellow accents. The colour palet black, red and yellow are typical for Yi lacquerwork. The side is decorated with a diamond pattern and the back shows an archaic motif with a wax seal in the center. The pouring end is reinforced with an iron ferrule and was fitted with a bamboo stopper. On top of the flask are two suspensions that hold the original cord to ware the flask.
Condition: Excellent, some minor ware due to age and use, the lacquer is in good state and every part is original.
Dating: Looking at the patination and decoration in combination with the used colors, I believe this example to date from the 18th or 19th century.
Dimensions: 34cm wide
– Ex Zena Kruzick
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