Wooden Chinese Basket
This 19th-century Chinese basket is made of wood and covered in original oxblood paint. In China and beyond, the blood of an ox was used as a pigment for paint and to dye leather or fabric. This basket appears dark red with brown and purple undertones. Over time, the colour would have changed from a bright red colour to a darker hue as it aged and oxidized. This particular basket was elegantly crafted in a long oval shape. A thin, rectangular piece of wood frames the base of the basket. The handle is made from three separate sticks. Bamboo was a common material for basket handles in 19th-century China, but it is unclear if this handle is made of bamboo or not. The lid is detachable, and the inside of the lid features an original Chinese inscription. This basket would likely have been used for bringing lunch out into the fields for workers. Baskets like these were also used for transporting goods or other items including grain, rice, and fabric.
At this time in China, the First Opium War occured from 1840–1842, as a result of the Qing Dynasty attempting to suppress Great Britain's illegal opium trade, which had caused a widespread addiction crisis. The war lasted two years, ending with a British victory and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Nanking, which enabled the British to “carry on their mercantile transactions with whatever persons they please.” The Chinese were also required to cede Hong Kong to Britain, and pay reparations to the British government. The relative ease with which the British won the war greatly affected the Qing Dynasty’s prestige.