Cast after an ancient Han or Six Dynasties (25-618) prototype, this scholar's water dropper is in the form of a tortoise holding a small cup in its mouth. The creature is surmounted by a snake inlaid with gold and silver strips. In combination, the snake and tortoise represent the north, or the "dark warrior." In spite of the patterned inlay, the animals are realistically cast. The tortoise is even correctly detailed with scales and plastron on the underside.
A bronze tortoise-form water dropper was recently excavated from a third- or fourth-century tomb in Ch'ing-hai province. In keeping with scholar's taste for the ancient, this seventeenth-century writing utensil once used on a scholar's desk must have been based on an ancient prototype.