W70xL100xH60, China

This blue and white porcelain box, now displayed as a toothpick holder, was used as an “ink pad” for the Chines. It is a container for the red paste used with the Chinese seal. The ink paste has been used since the Qin dynasty and at that time using clay, the clay is made into small balls and soften with water when use, it is used as a seal for a document, similar to the wax seal in the West (only that the document is of bamboo, text written in lacquer, the envelope being as string which is then sealed). By the Tang dynasty, as paper is developed the ink paste is also refined, cinnabar replaced clay as the seal paste which is closer to today’s paste. Also see our previous post “A Seal Case“.

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