Baitong Stacking Incense Clock

c. 1850
$980 USD
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W: 3.25" D: 3.25" H: 3.5"
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This three-tiered container is a 19th-century white brass incense clock, once used as a relatively accurate method to mark the passage of time. Incense clocks were utilized by Qing dynasty astronomers, palace officials, temples, and night watchmen, among others, as it was accurate, portable, and could be used day and night. These incense burners were used as clocks by forming intricate, winding lines of powdered incense by means of a geometric mold and a metal tamper. By knowing the burn time of the particular incense used, an individual could then measure the passage of time by how long it took the entire design to turn to ash.

This example is formed from baitong, also known as white brass or paktong, and has a three tier design with an openwork lid of a reticulated geometric pattern. Reminiscent of window lattice, this perforated design allowed for airflow and encouraged the fragrant smoke to spread throughout a room. All three tiers stack neatly together and include an inner tray that can be removed to toss ashes and debris.

From the collection of Frances and Gary Comer.

Minor metal warping on lid.

Additional Dimensions:
Bottom Compartment: 1.5"H
Middle Compartment: 1.25"H
Upper Compartment: 1.25"H

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