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Wang Chin-shen, Imperial Ink Cake, 1736-1795. Colors, gold and animal adhesive, 15/16 x 7 1/4 in. (2.38 x 18.42 cm). Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton 2000.154 ©2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

his rare and unusual imperial ink cake has the form and color of a shallow carved lacquer dish. Red ink was used in official court transcripts for punctuation, corrections, and imperial inscriptions. This specially commissioned cake was likely made to commemorate an important court event. The central medallion is finely worked with a pair of gilt dragons flanking a two-character inscription that reads « imperially bestowed. » The cavetto bears a long seal-script inscription. The reverse is decorated with archaistic dragons and flowing pearls in low relief as well as a gilt nine-character mark that reads « Made by Wang Chin-sheng in the Qianlong period of the great Ch’ing dynasty. »