The World in a Bottle in the World

28 Ma Hengbao ’ s research on the Ge yuan indicates that the brothers were deceased “ at the end of the Qing, ” that is, by 1911. In his description of the three Yangzhou mansions of the warlord Xu Baoshan, Ma relates that two specific addresses on the road that runs along one side of the Ge yuan were, in the late Qing, “ the ancestral estate of the brothers Li Peisong (courtesy name Yunting) and Li Peizhen (courtesy name Weizhi 維之 ) from Dantu. At the end of the Qing, the Li family transferred it to the name of Xu Baoshan because of debts owing [emphasis added]. ” The implication is that Li Yunting and Li Weizhi were deceased when Xu attained a portion of their real estate. The important scholar of epigraphy Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866–1940) gives us what appears to be more definite evidence for Li Weizhi ’ s year of death, but his evidence must be used with care. Discussing an ancient bronze drum that had the distinction of carrying an inscription, he tells us that it eventually ended up with “ Li Weizhi of Yangzhou. ” In the wuxu year ( 戊戌 1898) Li assented to give Luo a rubbing, but before he could make good on the promise, he died. 35 � This would seem to indicate that Li Peizhen died around the turn of the century, but in view of the Hanyeping Iron and Coal Company telegrams from 1909 and 1910 mentioned above, we can only conclude that a dozen years passed before Luo attempted to follow up on Li ’ s promise. Taking all this into account, we conclude that the Li Weizhi whose name appears on some of these Yangzhou glass-overlay bottles died around 1911. What more do we know of these patrons of Yangzhou glass? Luo Zhenyu ’ s account suggests that Li Weizhi was an important epigraphist. Indeed, thanks to the prefaces to Li ’ s 1876 collection of seal imprints under the title Jin tonggu zhai yincun 晉銅鼓 齋印存 [Seals preserved in the studio of the Jin bronze drum], we know that he had always been a fan of the Yangzhou seal carver Wu Xizai 吳熙載 (1799–1870) and that he moved from Dantu to Yangzhou shortly before Wu ’ s death. That would have been in the late Tongzhi period, which matches one account concerning the purchase of the Ge yuan. The 1876 book contains several hundred seals by Wu Xizai that Li Weizhi was able to collect after Wu passed away, evidently to compensate for the fact that Wu had been too infirm in his final months to carve anything, especially for his young fan from Dantu. 36 In 1880 Li Weizhi was the head of a bank (a qianzhuang , taking deposits and exchanging currency) in Yangzhou named the Fu Maoheng qianzhuang 復茂恆錢莊 . This information comes from the newspaper Shenbao (sixth year of Guangxu, tenth month, fifteenth day, p. 4), where the bank is identified as one of the agents through which investors could buy stock in a Shanghai textile factory. In 1895, Li Weizhi also set up a modern silk factory in Zhenjiang called the Zhenjiang sijing sichang 鎮江四經 絲廠 . 37 Unfortunately, by 1900 the factory was in deep financial difficulty owing to its inability to compete with foreign imports. 38 We have been using terms such as “ elite ” and “ literati ” to characterize the patrons and (in some cases) artists whose names appear on the snuff bottles that are our topic in this article. Those are vague terms, adequate for signaling that we are not dealing with imperial production but inadequate for specifying the basis for the individual ’ s social position. With Li Weizhi (Peizhen) and Li Yunting (Peisong), we are fortunate enough to have somewhat more definitive characterizations. The Li brothers are mentioned together in the imperial court records for March 29, 1886 ( Qing shilu: Jingde huangdi shilu, juan 224, Guangxu 12/2/ wuzi ) in a report on contributors to disaster relief. Li Peizhen is categorized simply as Jiangsu gentry ( shenshi 紳士 ); Li Peisong, on the other hand, is a taoyuan 道員 , a circuit intendant. Earlier, in a similar report on October 29, 1883 ( Qing shilu: Jingde huangdi shilu, juan 170, Guangxu 9/9/ bingwu ), Li Peisong alone is mentioned, again as a circuit intendant (perhaps newly appointed to a vacant post, if we understand buyongdao 補用道 correctly). In 1880, however, when Li Peisong was on the six-member board of directors of the Shanghai Cotton Cloth Mill (along with Zheng Guanying, whose letters to “ Li Yunting Weizhi ” have been mentioned above), he was among the majority of directors who were “ merchants or former compradors, ” not officials. 39 (Another account of Li Peisong ’ s association with the same enterprise adds the information that his courtesy name was Yunting. 40 It is always helpful to confirm that we have correctly identified the people we find in the documents.) These facts would suggest either that Li Yunting had a nominal title as circuit intendant but was not actually an acting official or that he was a merchant in 1880 who had attained office (perhaps by purchase) by 1883 and had actually assumed the duties of that office by 1886. With these discoveries about Li Yunting and Li Weizhi in mind, we may return to their glass-overlay bottles with renewed appreciation and an enhanced ability to interpret what they tell us. For example, no. 1021 in the Bloch Collection (the white on turquoise-blue example in figure 37 ) bears the name Yunting in the form of a seal and is also marked “ Precious collection of Mr. Li of Jingjiang, twelfth month of the year jimao . ” Jingjiang 京江 is just across the Yangzi River from Yangzhou. Fig. 40. An ivory snuff dish by Jueshan.