Cabinet of Curiosities “奇珍异宝” : Rare Asian Art Objects


On June 12, , our prestigious Asian Art auction will open the doors of its “Cabinet de Curiosité” to present an exceptional selection of rare objects from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. From the Oligocene to the 20th century AD, immerse yourself in a traditional realm, imbued with elegance and refinement, through an infinite variety of unique artworks, made with dedication by talented craftsmen.

The materials used to create these rare objects are just as fascinating as the pieces themselves. From delicately decorated ceramics to brilliant lacquers and sumptuous textiles, you’ll be amazed by the diversity of techniques and materials used. The finesse of Chinese porcelain, the refined aesthetics of Japanese prints, the delicacy of Korean lacquerware and the sophistication of Vietnamese wood carvings will testify to the incomparable skills of Asian craftsmen.

In the past, every cultured man with an eagerness to learn had to have a Hina-Matsuri, the doll festival, celebrated on March 3 each year, which is a festival for girls. Tradition has it that dolls, supposed to protect little girls, are displayed on a stepped platform for a few days during this period. These dolls represent the imperial court during the Heian period. Placed at the top of the platform, they are usually accompanied by three court ladies, five musicians, two ministers and the objects and furniture used in the imperial palace such as “Cabinet de Curiosité”. These cabinets were rooms in which strange wonders were displayed, reflecting humanity’s fascination with nature and the extraordinary imagination we have for the unknown world.

Collectors can organise their cabinets according to their personal preferences. These collections can house small pieces of craft and art, as well as a wide variety of natural curiosities. Larger collections can even contain a multitude of exotic treasures, from refined sculptures, paintings and sumptuous jewellery to animal specimens, harmoniously blending the products of nature and human creations in the same room.

From ancestral objects to contemporary creations, you will discover an artistic palette as vast as it is captivating. Each piece tells a story, testifying to human ingenuity and the artistic expression specific to each region. Highlighting the cultural richness of Asia through objects from different eras and in a variety of styles. “Cabinet de Curiosité” continue to fascinate foreign cultures and inspire mythical stories. They are seen as an open window on the world.




Stones, Gems and Minerals




Lot 231

A naturally formed rock dating from the Oligocene (around 30 million years ago), with multiple layers of concretions and folds creating a dynamic and complex example, on a base.
HAUT. 66 CM (26 IN.) – LARG. 115 CM (45 ¼ IN.) – PROF. 20 CM ( 7 7/8 IN.)

25 000 / 30 000 €



Gogottes are magnificent and intriguing mineral formations. Once thought to be composed of chalk, they are in fact the rare and entirely natural result of the bonding of calcium carbonate with extremely fine grains of quartz. Each sculptural layer is a unique composition of the mineral-rich waters of Fontainebleau in northern France, with cloud-like shapes and tangible representations of dreamlike images. The process of mineralisation spans around 30 million years, with each formation being a uniquely shaped marvel. A typical example of the blending of nature and art, gogottes can be appreciated as sandstone variants of the Gongshi (scholar’s rock) tradition. These sandstone concretions have enjoyed international popularity and renown for centuries. As far back as the late 17th century, for example, gogottes were hailed for their aesthetic qualities by the highest echelons of the French nobility. Louis XIV was so fond of them that he commissioned extensive excavations around Fontainebleau to decorate his palace gardens. Gogottes still adorn the Encelade, the Trois Fontaines and the ballroom at Versailles, and continue to enchant and delight visitors as they have for over 300 years.




Lot 250

made from Shandong stone, its tortuous form rising vertically from a carved wooden base whose irregularities echo those of the stone.
HAUT. 47,5 CM (18 11/16 IN.)

6 000 / 8 000 €



For centuries, stones and rocks have held a special spot in Chinese culture and imagination. Their raw beauty and their link with nature have aroused a deep fascination among scholars, who have developed an unconditional interest in these natural elements. The love of stones and rocks among Chinese scholars goes beyond mere aesthetics. It reflects a deep bond between man and nature, a quest for harmony and wisdom. Chinese scholars found in these natural formations a source of inspiration, meditation and contemplation, guiding them along the path to understanding mankind and the universe. Among these precious stones, jades are particularly sought-after.



Lot 302

carved and openworked beige jade with rust veins, representing two deities playing the game of Wei under a pine tree of longevity, accompanied by a servant and two cranes.
China, Song or Jin style, 20th century
DIM. 8,2 X 13 X 3,5 CM (3 1/4 X 5 1/8 X 1 3/8 IN.)

1 500 / 2 500 €



Jade has been part of Chinese culture for a thousand years. Considered the quintessence of beauty and virtue, jade is revered in China not only for its rarity and value, but also for the many symbolic meanings it embodies. This profound fondness for jade is rooted in the history of China, its spirituality and vision of harmony between man and nature. Jade, called Yu in Chinese, is prized for its colours and smooth texture. It is often associated with qualities such as purity, nobility, wisdom and immortality.




Lot 317

Beige and partially calcified jade, bi form, with archaistic button decoration.
China, Song style, 20th century
DIAM. 5,5 CM (2 3/16 IN.)

400 / 600 €



Since antique times, jade has been used to create art objects and jewellery, which have been passed down from generation to generation as family treasures. The Chinese attach great importance to the significance and sentimental value of jade pieces. Jade objects are often given as gifts on special occasions such as weddings, birthdays or anniversaries, symbolising love, luck and protection.




Lot 305

Rectangular celadon jade pendant, the ends carved with a qilin and a dragon, the central part with openwork decoration of a Hoho and a Taoist trigram.
China, early 20th century

1 000 / 1 500 €




Objects and Rites




Protruding cheekbones, pronounced eyebrows, oversized eyes… this sneering faces may seem worrying. But what lies behind this object? This wooden figure, formerly lacquered and polychrome, is a Nuo theatre mask representing a caricature of a male character.




Lot 191

in wood, formerly lacquered and polychrome, representing Judge Bao wearing a Ming period civil servant’s hat, his eyes bulging out and his mouth slightly ajar.
China, Guizhou, 19th century.
HAUT. 31,5 CM (12 3/8 IN)

2 000 / 4 000 €



Nuo theatre is a form of traditional Chinese theatre that has its roots in ancestral religious rituals. It is thought to have emerged during the Neolithic period and has evolved over time to become a popular art form rooted in the traditions of the Chinese provinces. It is often performed at festivals and other major cultural events. The performances usually involve masked actors and elaborate costumes, and the stories they tell are frequently based on Chinese mythology and legends. Music and dance are also important elements in the performance and are used to create an immersive and engaging experience for the audience. Nuo theatre is considered a form of ritual drama and is often associated with exorcism and spiritual purification. According to tradition, these ceremonies have the power to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck to the community.


In the context of Nuo theatre, there are various chimerical figures and personalities that are commonly enacted. These characters are frequently drawn from Chinese mythology and folklore. Among the most common representations is Zhong Kui, a legendary icon from Chinese mythology known as the “demon slayer”. He is portrayed as a demon hunter and exorcist, often with a distinctive fierce appearance, and protects men against evil spirits. There is also Erlang Shen, one of the Chinese folklore and mythology gods, frequently described as a powerful warrior with a third eye on his forehead. Erlang Shen is known for his skills in fighting demons and the forces of evil. We also find Tudi, god of the soil, usually symbolised by a hat with a flower in the centre. Always depicted with a big smile, he brings happiness to the community, accompanies the dead and helps them to pass through the gates of hell.


Most of the gods are drawn from authentic history, such as Bao Gong, who became Judge Bao in the theatre realm. He is said to have lived under the Northern Song in the 11th century and was deified for his edifying conduct. Most of the time, he is depicted in black with severe features and fangs on his mask. Sometimes he is referred to as the “King of the Underworld”. He is responsible for watching over the souls of the dead and determining their fate in the afterlife. This character is often embodied in elaborate costumes and masks, symbolising his authority and divine status.


Later, during the Song period, nuo was enriched by contributions from many other religions and spiritualities, such as Taoism and Buddhism. This led to a shift from ritual to popular theatre, which in turn led to a refinement of the masks, softening their features and making them more “human”. They ended up representing everyday characters with caricatured features like this one. In fact, the mask depicted below is a portrait of a civil servant judge from the Ming period. His hairstyle, known as Wu Sha, is one of the main features that enable us to recognise his function, since it was the official hat of civil servants in the Ming dynasty. It is worth pointing out that the attributes and aesthetic features of these figures can vary from period to period and from region to region.








Lot 434

depicting the emperor and empress, presented during the Hina-Matsuri festival. The two subjects are depicted seated on large plinths, wearing rich brocade garments, wooden heads and hands and gofun.
Japan, late Taishô-early Showa period, first half of 20th century
DIM. TOTALE : 33 X 42 CM

600 / 800 €



Hina-Matsuri, the doll festival, celebrated on March 3 each year, is a festival for girls. Tradition has it that dolls, supposed to protect little girls, are displayed on a stepped platform for a few days during this period. These dolls represent the imperial court during the Heian period. Placed at the top of the platform, they are usually accompanied by three court ladies, five musicians, two ministers and the objects and furniture adorning the imperial palace.





An intercultural testimonial




Chinese medicine, with its deep roots in Chinese history and culture, has exerted a considerable influence on many Asian regions. Korea and Japan, in particular, have benefited from this valuable heritage of medical knowledge and have incorporated many aspects of Chinese Medicine into their own healing practices.




Lot 359

made of wood, with eighty small drawers in ten rows at the front, eight larger drawers and two doors at the bottom, all bearing labels on the outside indicating the therapeutic use of the drugs contained in the corresponding compartment.
Korea, late 19th-early 20th century.
HAUT. 114 CM (44 7/8 IN.) – LARG. 87 CM (34 ¼ IN.) – PROF. 28 CM (11 IN.)

600 / 800 €



Chinese medicinal herbs, also known as Zhong Yao, are used in complex formulas based on thousands of years of clinical observations and documentation, which combine several plants to achieve synergistic effects. Each herb has specific properties, such as taste, nature, action and the meridians with which it is associated. These characteristics enable treatments to be tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

In Korea, Chinese medicine, also known as Hanuihak, was introduced as early as the first cultural exchanges between the two countries. Over the centuries, Korea has assimilated the fundamental principles of Chinese medicine, while developing its own techniques and methods of diagnosis and treatment. Korean practitioners have adapted Chinese knowledge to local realities, using indigenous medicinal herbs and incorporating traditional Korean healing techniques such as moxibustion.










A global history written by Chinese ceramics
Friday, June 9, 2023 at 7 pm CEST
Reservation at [email protected]



Monday, June 12, 2023 at 2 pm CEST
Tajan – 37 rue des Mathurins – 75008 Paris



Déborah Teboul | Director of the Asian and Oriental Arts Department
+33 1 53 30 30 57 – [email protected]