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A handsome collection of three Chinese brass censers, these incense burners have the tripod base and looped handles that came into popularity during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 8 AD). The marks of the Xuande period (1426-1435) are on each bottom, but these marks are apocryphal, meaning of doubtful authenticity. This refers only to the marks, not the censers, which are genuine. Chinese craftsmen often marked their metalwares, as they did their ceramics, with the marks of previous, earlier dynasties and makers, in tribute to and reverence for these ancestors. On censers, the Xuande marks are some of the most copied, as this period was considered to be a peak of fine craftsmanship.
Censers like these were used to burn incense at private shrines in homes, as well as for hand warmers (with charcoal) in cold weather, for scenting linens and clothes and for perfuming the air. While these censers are all in excellent condition, with no cracks and little pitting of the brass, the bowls are naturally somewhat blackened from use. The sizes are as follows:
Smallest: About 2 7/8 inches across, about 1 1/2 inches high and 3.4 ounces, this size would have been commonly used for a hand warmer as well as for incense. It has no engraved designs on the sides; impressed marks on the bottom include the words "Made in China." Early 20th century (but post-1914).
Medium: About 3 1/4 inches wide, about 2 inches tall and 5.5 ounces, this censer's marks include the word "China." There are 5 holes along the sides, used for hanging it from a silken cord to swing freely through the air and for ease of carrying. The engraved designs on the sides continue onto the bottom. Late 1800's (1890-1914).
Largest: About 4 inches across, about 3 inches tall and 12.5 ounces, this censer's incised designs continue onto the three feet. Mid to late 1800's.