Zitan, purple sandalwood, is a dense hardwood of great value to the Chinese aesthete. The deep rich color and attractive texture and grain pattern were of great allure and a favored material for articles for scholarly use. The present ink stick stand was conceived as a piece of miniature furniture, although fashioned out of a single piece of wood. The top was delicately carved with an openwork design of paired, finely detailed dragons. Raised on splayed scrolled feet, the sides are carved with sharp and precise edges.
Such a delicate and well-crafted accouterment might have been purely decorative but functioning as an ink stick rest or not would have added a touch of class to a busy scholar’s workspace.