Dr. David Ho (Chinese name Ho Hangchi 何昌熾) was born in Kanton in 1911. His father was a well-known dentist in Nanjing who counted Chiang Kai-shek among his patients. David Ho pursued an illustrious career in International Law. He first studied political sciences at the University of Shanghai (1930-1932) followed by comparative and international law studies at Suzhou University. After moving to France, in 1941 he obtained a PhD in law from the University of Paris. In 1962 he joined the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple in London. From 1949 until his retirement in 1971, David Ho worked as a legal officer at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. He relocated to Geneva in 1971 where he and his wife lived until his death in 1986. 

Interested in Chinese history and art, David Ho was particularly fascinated by objects that were inscribed. His extensive archive and research suggest that it was during his time in New York that he began collecting and researching Chinese artefacts.

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Lot 120. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). A very rare bronze inscribed and dated goosefoot lamp, Guigong Yanzudeng, Western Han dynasty, dated Jingning 1st year, corresponding to 33 BC. Height 13.5 cm. Lot Sold 138,600 GBP (Estimate 70,000 - 90,000 GBP)© Sotheby's

the annular bowl supported on one side by a straight leg encircled by a band at the centre, and terminating in a foot with three webbed toes set on a square base rounded at the back and chamfered at the front, the underside of the circular bowl with a 43 or 44 character inscription in zhuanshu reading Gui gong yanzudeng, gao liu cun zhong sanjinsan liang, Jingning yuan nian kaogong fu wei nei zhe zao, hujian, zuobo, sefufu. Yuanguang zhu, youcheng gong, lingxiangsheng. Di sayi.

Provenance: Acquired in New York in 1970 (according to David Ho's notes).

Literature: Lu Zengyang, Baqiongshi jinshi buzhengxi [Epigraphy Supplement of Baqiongshi], 1925, vol 2, pg. 6.
Ke Changsi, Mizhai jinwen taben [Rubbings of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Mizhai], 1931-1941.Rong Geng, Hanjinwen Lu [Records of Han Bronze Inscriptions], 1931, vol. 3, pg 22.
Luo Zhenyu, Zhensongtang jigu yiwen, [Gathering of Ancient Writings in the Zhensongtang Studio: addendum], 1931, vol. 13, pg. 25-26.
Luo Zhenyu, Xuetang cang jinwen [Bronze Inscriptions in the Collection of Xuetang], 1931-1940.
Liu Tizhi, Xiaojiaojingge jinwen taben [Rubbings of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Xiaojiaojingge], 1935, vol. 11, pg. 95.
Dr John Ferguson, Lidai Zhulu Jijinmu/Catalogue of the recorded bronzes of successive dynasties, Shanghai, 1939, no. 1118.

NoteThis rather curious bronze lamp belongs to a small and very distinctive group of bronze utensils made in the late Warring States and Han period. Realistically cast in the form of a single goose foot, this object serves as a lamp and is a rather ingenious design that is both decorative and functional. Known as a 'goosefoot lamp' (yanzu deng), its name derives from its form, and as the number of surviving lamps of this type demonstrate, lamps cast in the form of a single goose foot seem to have been most popular in the late Western and early Eastern Zhou period, as discussed by Ye Xiaoyan, ‘Zhanguo Qin Han de deng ji you guan wenti’, in Wenwu, 1983.7, p. 81. 79-81.

The present lamp represents the standard goosefoot lamp design, with a well-defined single leg ending in three webbed toes resting on a square platform and supporting a circular oil container at the top. This basic design underwent few if any modifications from when it was first made in the late 3rd century BC, as two slightly taller examples excavated from Qin tombs in Ta’erpo. Xianyang, Shaanxi illustrate, see Wenwu, 1975.6, p. 73. Detailed inscriptions on surviving lamps give an idea of how formalised and highly organised the production process of these popular lamps (and other bronze utensils) was, often recording the year the lamp was made, its size and weight, the place where it was made and by whom, and sometimes even the place for which the object was made. The inscription on the base of the present goosefoot lamp's oil container comprises 44 characters in total (plus an illegible 45th character at the end of the inscription), and may be translated as follows 'this Gui Gong bronze goosefoot lamp, six cun tall and 3 jin and 12 (or 3) liang heavy, was made in the first year of the Jingning reign (33 BC), by artisan Fu of the Imperial workshop (kaogong) for the inner office (neizhe), supervised by the manufacturing officers Jian (title hu), Bo (title zuo), Fu (title sefu), Guang (title yuan) and Xiang (title youcheng gong ling)... '.

It is not surprising that in length, style and content, the inscription on this lamp follows a standardised formula found on many other bronze utensils made in the Han period. The present lamp is almost identical in size and weight to a similarly inscribed goosefoot lamp excavated from a Han tomb in Liujia cun, Baoji, Shaanxi, in 1970, now in the collection of the Shaanxi History Museum. In fact, the inscriptions on the two lamps reveal that while both lamps were made by different artisans, these were supervised by the same officialsin the same Imperial workshop. The excavated lamp was made in the 3rd year of the Jianzhao reign (36 BC) while the Gui Gong lamp was made shortly after in the first year of the Jingning reign (33 BC). A third inscribed lamp dated to the first year of the Suihe reign (8 BC) mentions a different artisan and different supervisors yet is cast in the same form and size as the two earlier examples, compare The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bronze Articles for Daily Use, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 102, no. 86. The similarities between these three goosefoot lamps demonstrate that such objects were made as multiples in official workshops where production was supervised and subjected to a strict quality control.

Bronze goosefoot lamps disappeared from the artistic repertoire after the Han dynasty. They suddenly reappear in the Song period at a time when literati began to take an interest in the material culture of the past. In the Northern Song antiquarian studies led to the establishment of a formal classification system that divided ancient bronzes into different categories. It is in this context that examples of bronze lamps of this type first appear in the works of leading literati-scholars. Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) records a goosefoot lamp in his Jigulu bawei (Colophones to the Record of Collected Antiquities) while the scholar and intellectual Lü Dalin (1044-1071) describes another example alongside a line drawing of the actual piece in his Kaogu tu (Illustrated Investigations of Antiquity). Interestingly, both lamps bear inscriptions, and the lamp reproduced by Lü Dalin is also very similar in form to the lot offered here. 

The Record of Collected Antiquities became a model for later collectors and scholars, and both the Jianzhao goosefoot lamp and the Jingning goosefoot lamp were extensively studied, researched and published in 18th and 19th century antique catalogues and literature that were modelled on Ouyang Xiu’s work, for a comprehensive summary see Pengliang Lu, ‘The 2,000-Year Journey of the Goosefoot Lamp’, Orientatons, vol. 48, no. 2, March/April 2017, pp. 94-102.

The bronze goosefoot lamp offered here is first mentioned in Lu Zengyang’s (1816-1881) Baqiongshi jinshi buzhengxi (Epigraphy Supplement of Baqiongshi), published in 1925. It is mentioned right after the Jianzhao goosefoot lamp and is recorded as the ‘Gui Gong’ goosefoot lamp, Lu Zengxiang, Baqiongshi jinshi buzhengxi, Wuxing, Liu shi xi gu lou, 1925, juan 2, p. 6. The inscription is reproduced, transcribed and extensively annotated, with different versions of the numbers giving the weight. Subsequently, the ‘Gui Gong’ lamp was handled by several eminent scholars and the inscription reproduced, including by Ke Changsi (1899-1952), Rong Geng (1894-1940), Liu Tizhi (1979-1963) and Luo Zhenyu (1866-1940) who included it in two of his works, see Luo Zhenyu, Zhensong tang jigu yiwen, (Gathering of Ancient Writings in the Zhensong Tang Studio), 1931, juan 13, pp. 25-26).

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While the Jianzhao and the Jingning goosefoot lamps share a more illustrious collecting and publication history and have been known until this day, the Gui Gong goosefoot lamp has only been documented in writings and rubbings. The collector and scholar Dr. David Ho (Ho Changchi) who acquired the lamp in New York in 1970, delved into the history of this particular lamp which he recognised as the missing goosefoot lamp that was recorded along others in antiquarian writings and studies of the late 19th and early 20th century and believed to be an important discovery. His desire to reveal its history stemmed from his admiration for the scholarly value of Ouyang Xiu’s Record of Collected Antiquities which he saw as the inspiration and foundation of his own pursuit of the ‘Gui Gong’ goosefoot lamp. 

NDB: Actually in the collection of Shanghai Museum, Gift of Mr Li Yinxuan and Ms. Qiu Hui

A bronze mirror, Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD)

Lot 118. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). A bronze mirror, Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Diameter 17.2 cm. Lot Sold 3,780 GBP (Estimate 3,000 - 5,000 GBP). © Sotheby's

with a central hemispherical knop set within a square enclosed by twelve small bosses divided by the twelve Heavenly Stems, the outer field cast in thread relief with the animals of the Eight Quarters, interspersed with four 'L' and four 'V' motifs, all within a narrow inscribed band, the raised rim with concentric zigzag and dog-tooth borders.

NoteCompare a similar mirror in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, illustrated in Bernard Karlgren, 'Early Chinese Mirrors', in B.M.F.E.A, no. 40, 1968, pl. 105, no. L4.

A brightly patinated bronze mirror, Han dynasty

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Lot 119. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). A brightly patinated bronze mirror, Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Diameter 17.8 cm. Lot Sold 3,780 GBP (Estimate 3,000 - 5,000 GBP)© Sotheby's

the hemispherical knop set within a band of twelve small discs alternately linked by single and triple lines to a band of stylised characters, encircled by a blade and spiral band in thread relief surrounded by a second longer inscription band, the raised rim undecorated, the patination of vivid azurite blue and malachite green.

NoteCompare with a smaller bronze mirror lacking the outer band of Chinese characters, illustrated in Masterpieces of Chinese Bronze Mirrors in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1971, pl. 23. 

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Lot 121. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). A rare inscribed and dated archaistic bronze vessel, fu, Yuan dynasty, dated to the bingzi year of the Zhiyuan reign (1276 or 1336). Length 34.1 cm. Lot Sold 13,860 GBP (Estimate 6,000 - 8,000 GBP)© Sotheby's

heavily cast of rectangular shape, with wide flared sides raised on a high splayed foot with a cut-out apron, the sides set with a pair of loop handles issuing from animal heads, decorated around the sides with bands of stylised geometric motifs, the sides with two small applied animal-mask tabs, the interior with a cartouche reading Wen chang shuyuan Zhiyuan bingzi cheng Guangping Zhang Yuanshan zhi.

Note: The inscription on the base of this vessel records it being made for use in the Wenchang Academy during the Yuan dynasty. We know that in the first year of the Yuan dynasty, the Emperor ordered the construction or revival of Confucian temples across the country where local governors could advocate Confucian values, regulations and ethics. ions. In 1370, it was decreed that such sets of bronze ritual vessels made for private use could only be made in pottery, while ritual vessels made for state temples and academies could be made in silver and bronze, see Michel Maucuer, Bronzes des la Chine Imperiale des Song aux Qing, Paris, 2016, pp. 23 and 24. While archaistic bronze ritual vessels are not uncommon, bronze ritual vessels documented to have been made for use in local academies and temples such as the present example are extremely rare. A vessel of this type and design known as the Zhou Shu Bang Fu fu is illustrated in one of the earliest catalogues of antiquities, the Bo gu tu, compiled by Wang Fu (1079-1126) during the Northern Song, and may have served as a direct model for the present piece. Related examples of 15th century date include a bronze fu in the collection of the Musee Cernuschi, Paris, published in Michel Maucuer, Bronzes des la Chine Imperiale des Song aux Qing, Paris, 2016, pp. 36 and 37, cat. no. 5, 

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Lot 122. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). bronze box and cover with Arabic inscription, Ming dynasty, 17th century. Diameter 12.5 cm. Lot Sold 8,820 GBP (Estimate 3,000 - 5,000 GBP)© Sotheby's

of circular form, the flat cover cast with a central medallion enclosing an Arabic invocation within a circular border cast with a continuous foliate wavy scroll.

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Lot 123. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). A bronze censerQing dynasty, 17th-18th century. Width across handles 19.3 cm. Lot Sold 17,640 GBP (Estimate 4,000 - 6,000 GBP)© Sotheby's

the compressed globular body raised on a short splayed foot, set with two loop handles, the base with an apocryphal Xuande nian zhi cast in relief.

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Lot 124. Property formerly in the Collection of Dr. David Ho (1911-1986). Two bronze Manchu official's seals, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period, dated 1750. Heights 9.2 and 9 cm. Lot Sold 10,080 GBP (Estimate 8,000 - 12,000 GBP)© Sotheby's

each of rectangular form and surmounted by a tall slightly tapering cylindrical handle, incised on the top with Manchu scripts, the sides with inscriptions reading Libu zao (made by the Ministry of Rite); one inscribed to the sides with further inscriptions reading Qian zi sanqian wubao hao (Number 3500 of Qian) and Qianlong shiwu nian er yue (Made in the second month in the 15th year of the Qianlong reign), corresponding to 1750, the seal face cast in Manchurian and Chinese seal script with characters reading xianglanqi manzhou sijia lasan zuoling tuji (seal of the 3rd company, 4th regiment of the plain blue banner); the other with Qian zi sanqian sanbai wushiyi hao (Number 3351 of Qian) and Qianlong shiwu nian zheng yue (Made in the first month in the 15th year of the Qianlong reign'), corresponding to 1750, the seal face cast in Manchurian and Chinese seal script with characters reading xianglanqi manzhou sijia latou zuoling tuji (seal of the 1st company, 4th regiment of the plain blue banner)

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, London, 3 November 2021