mystery_metal_object.jpg | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong



Can anyone identify this round metal object which is 15 inches in radius and 21 inches high together with the wooden stand? Likewise the meaning of the Chinese characters and the symbolism of the flower border at the base. It has been found among the effects of Cicely Warren, late widow of my uncle Leslie Warren. It was a heavy item to take to England with her in 1938 when Leslie evacuated his family. Cicely then took it to Canada when she emigrated there after the war. It must have some sentimental significance. It was perhaps presented as a gift of thanks by one of the missions on the China coast supported by C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd., but that's just a guess, as the family has kept another such gift. The back of the object is plain.

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Wednesday, April 27, 2022


Hi Jill,

The Chinese words is a phrase of good wish [福壽雙全].  No direct translation, but generally means to wish the recipient good fortune and longivity.  You might like to rotate it a bit so the words are aligned with the word [福] on 12 o'clock.

The engraving on the wooden stand is a bit blurred, unable to determine.  Is it possible to take another photo of it?  On the other hand is that a camphor chest?


Thank you for the interpretation, tngan. I thought the plate was probably a gift to bring good luck. I can see that it is upside down. I'm not sure if it would have been given in 1938 when the C.E. Warren Canton office was closed down due to the Japanese invasion and which was the year that Cicely Warren left Hong Kong with her children, or if it would have been given to Leslie Warren in 1941 when he closed down the whole company and perhaps sent items that he couldn't take with him to Penang home to his family in England. The plate is in Canada and I am in England. The three photos were sent to me together yesterday.

mystery_plate_2.jpg, by Michelle Thorpe
border_of_mystery_plate_1.jpg, by Michelle Thorpe

I don't know if it is a camphor chest in the photo. Would it still be scented? I know that Cicely Warren left two valuable chests with her sister in England, which were subsequently stolen.



Hi Jill,

Still uncertain what is the engravings, but they looked like branches with leaves of sort.  Uncertain with its meaning.

The 'table top' shown in the photos with that kind of engraving is used on many camphor chests or furnitures made out of hard wood.  If it is camphor, the scent came from the raisins.  Maybe after a bit of maintenance to clean the surface the scents may come out again.

Found a clip showing how to clean and maintain camphor wood:


I've now googled Chinese symbolism with respect to flowers. I think the border on the wooden stand of the plate represents a sprig of plum blossom. Plum blossom apparently signifies longevity, endurance and vitality. Plum blossom has gained this reputation for its resistance to low temperatures. The flowers on the border have five petals which match the number on the white plum flower. I'm sure there must be academic papers on good luck gifts and the engravings on them.

I will pass on the link for maintaining camphor wood. I think everyone had to have camphor wood chests, didn't they, to protect clothes and linen from vermin?