The base stand from a diorama that would have showed mannequins from a scene in a play, and which would have been part of the display within a temple.
McCrossin’s Mill Museum, Uralla
TRANSCRIPTIONS AND TRANSLATIONS
1. Small label at far right
Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat …
2. Small label second from right
Rear of Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat—2
3. Small label third from right
Rear of Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat—3
4. Small label at centre
5. Small label third from left
… Competes in Armed Combat …
6. Small label second from left
Rear of Ti Ch῾ing … Armed Combat …
7. Small label at far left
8. Large label at centre
Rear of Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat
9. Brush-written characters at centre
Underlined text in the transcriptions and translations: The underlining in the transcriptions and translations serves to highlight text that could be determined with relative certainty despite being fragmentary in the images (on account of such things as damage done to the fragile paper labels or the buildup of grime).
Texts 1 to 8: Despite the fragmentary nature of the texts on the paper labels that decorate this object—which would be manufacturer’s labels—it seems clear therefrom that it was connected with the presentation of a scene from a play. “狄青比武” “Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat” would either have been the title of the play, or of a scene within it, Ti Ch῾ing being the name of a celebrated Song-dynasty Chinese general who has inspired numerous plays, in various forms of traditional Chinese musical theatre, including ones entitled “狄青比武” “Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat”. (For a Chinese-language description of one such play of this exact name, see https://openmuseum.tw/muse/digi_object/7a0620d17a4023099912de8d40dab41d) A well-preserved example of a diorama at Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery (QVMAG), an image of which is shown below, sheds further light on the object. The QVMAG diorama has a frame surround which is a very close match for several fragments held in at McCrossin’s Mill Museum (see Mannequin frame section 1, Mannequin frame section 2, Mannequin frame section 3, and Mannequin frame section 4). The QVMAG diorama also features mannequins that are affixed to a plank-like stand on square and oblong wooden blocks of similar sizes and shapes to those delineated by the black lines on this object that is the subject of this post. It seems, therefore, that this McCrossin’s Mill object was a mannequin stand. Each of the seven boxes outlined in black on this stand is associated with a small paper label, which appear to be numbered “1” to “7” (the numbers progressing from right to left in conformity with the pre-westernised approach to writing), providing the numbers of the mannequins as an aid to assembly. There is also a larger label, which has no number or box associated with it, and reads “Rear of Ti Ch῾ing Competes in Armed Combat”. This presumably indicates that the stand occupied a position at the rear of the diorama.
Text 9: Text 9 literally reads “The character 天”, but is translated as “0001”. This is because it is the first character of a traditional children’s primer entitled 千字文 “The Thousand Character Text”, which is composed from 1000 unique characters, a property, coupled with the circumstance of general familiarity through schooling, that lent it to wider application as a source of symbols for serial numbers, much like a one-thousand-character alphabet. The translator has seen other examples of Qing-era objects for assembly that have components labelled with characters from “The Thousand Character Text”, including an item held at Bendigo’s Golden Dragon Museum. The usage here is consistent, and it would therefore appear that the text indicates that the stand is the diorama’s “component 0001”, or “component A”.
Another inscription: The large label appears to have been pasted on top of several brush-written characters, which are consequently unreadable.
This is a continually evolving website, and more information about this object will be published as further research is conducted.