Wigmore's Treasure Box: Comparative Law in the Era of Information

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39 Scopus citations


The treasure box was a favorite object of enjoyment of the Chinese emperors of the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasty. It was a small ornate box that the emperor could hold in his hand, and which sometimes contained as many as fifty tiny drawers or compartments, each revealing a different object or artifact, "real" or replica - a tiny bronze antiquity, a Neolithic jade pin, a miniature scroll of calligraphy, a piece of a French tea cup. Some of these objects replicated, in miniature, objects many times their size, yet they sat side by side in the box with other tiny objects of their actual scale. Put together, the collection represented the far ends of the empire, and as he played with the box, opening and closing the hidden compartments to reveal the objects inside, the Emperor came to feel that he held the history of the world in his hand. Although these objects were known as "cultural playthings" (wan wen) - objects of entertainment - the instrumental consequences of the collection could not have been more worldly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHarvard International Law Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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