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Asian Art

Incense Burner (Boshanlu)

2nd century B.C.–2nd century C.E.


7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
other (at lip): 4 in. (10.2 cm)
Gift of John Hadley Cox for the Gertrude Murdock Brown Memorial Collection

This incense burner in the shape of a mountain with towering peaks likely represents the Isle of the Blessed, the mythical land which was believed in China to be where the immortal ancestors resided. Once the incense was placed inside and began to burn, its smoke would have risen up and around the mountain peaks, creating a striking and fragrant tableau. Many of these incense burners have been excavated from aristocratic tombs and still have traces of burning visible on their interiors, suggesting that they were used in conjunction with funerary rituals and ancestor worship.

Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.)
Containers - Metals

John Hadley Cox (1913–2005); Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


John Hadley Cox, An Exhibition of Chinese Antiquities from Ch’ang-Sha lent by John Hadley Cox, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Associates in Fine Arts, Yale University, 1939), fig. 8.

George J. Lee, Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1970), 65, no. 102, ill.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 285, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.