San Antonio Museum or Art

Past Exhibitions

The Chinese Art of Cricket Keeping: The Ernest K. H. Lee Collection

December 3, 2011 - June 17, 2012

Special Exhibition Gallery, Asian Art 

For at least 1,000 years, crickets have been kept as pets in China for one of two reasons: for their song or, more commonly, for fighting. Cricket fighting was a past-time pursued by people of various classes, including wealthy merchants and the social elite. Affluent cricket-keeping enthusiasts commissioned very high quality cages and implements. The finest cricket-keeping objects demonstrate an ingenious combination of function and aesthetics.

Dr. Ernest Lee has spent several decades assembling a large, diverse, and impressive collection of cricket cages and related implements. One of the hallmarks of Dr. Lee's collectioSAMA exhibition include cricket cages composed of gourd, tortoiseshell, jade, ivory, cloisonné, silver, Peking glass, porcelain, and even coconut. Other cricket-keeping objects in the exhibition include blue-and-white-porcelain food and water trays, agitators used to prepare crickets for fighting, brushes, tongs, cricket-catchers, fighting arenas, scales, carrying tubes, cricket coffins, and even cricket beds. This exhibition gives visitors the rare opportunity to see Chinese works of art that developed around the “elegant hobby” of keeping crickets.

Carved Gourd Cricket Cage with Boys Playing with Crickets
Qing Dynasty, 18th - 19th c.
Gourd, Ivory, Tortoiseshell
H 6 3/4 x W 3 in.
On loan from Ernest K. H. Lee

Detail of Carved Gourd Cage with Boys Playing with Crickets

Openwork Carved Ivory Cricket Carrier
Qing Dynasty, 18th - 19th c.
H 1 1/2 x D 1 9/16 in.
On loan from Ernest K. H. Lee

Cricket Bed
Qing Dynasty, 19th - early 20th c.
Enameled Porcelain
H 1 3/4 x W 2 3/4 x D 1 1/2 in.
On loan from Ernest K. H. Lee