Note from Robert: Each of these counters was hand-made almost 300 years ago out of natural Mother of Pearl. Because this is a natural shell product, waves, dimples, color variations and shimmering iridescence are all part of the beauty of each one-of-a-kind counter, and it's almost impossible to capture their gleaming, shimmering, color-glinting beauty. You may also see small signs of wear - each of these pieces was used perhaps hundreds of times during games of chance played in elegant drawing rooms of old, and these small signs of use are part of their fascinating story.
Well-heeled families would place orders for sets of these mother of pearl counters with sea captains and trading companies. The orders would sail to China, but is was not until the sailing the following year that the orders were ready for shipment.
Etched into each counter, symbolic parable poems showing people engaged in activities of the time provide great insights into early Chinese culture and history.
Most of the counters were individually hand-crafted during the reign of the brilliant philosopher ruler Ch’ ien Lung between 1736 and 1796. The symbolic pictures tell the stories of Ruler Ch’ ien Lung’s 34,000 philosophical poems, which embrace the ideals of revered and influential Chinese philosophers, especially those of Confucius, Loa-tzu and Mencius.