Ping Zhan: Sandblasted Fugu with Bamboo Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-654-0055

Ping Zhan began his professional life as a software engineer, all the while dreaming of a fulfilling career as an artist until, after taking notice of pipes and pipe smoking, he found a way to express himself. He began carving in 2011 and is completely self-taught, taking inspiration from the Japanese and Danish schools of design, with this Fugu stylistically reflecting the work of Japanese greats such as Tokutomi and Satou, displaying Zhan's uncanny talent for precise shaping and clean lines.

I'm immediately drawn to the aft portion of this pipe, not for its maintaining the majority of the visual weight, but because its silhouette compositionally balances that visual weight's presence at the bowl. The transition here is a wide one, with plenty of room to drape a digit for comfortable smoking, and it gives way to an extremely short, sharply upturned shank. This shank is stylized in a way we seldom see: being carved to resemble a single knuckle of bamboo almost perfectly before being married to a four-knuckle stretch of the dense grass that continues its upward trajectory. Usually, we see a stylized divot continuing the dipped look of the bamboo into the briar, but seeing an entire shank carved like bamboo is extremely rare outside of Italian pipe making, and the effect is different: unifying the shank and its extension here rather than extending the shank and carving it to resemble the extension itself. This lengthy extension of bamboo is capped with a plump ring of pale wood reminiscent of boxwood, its left flank carved with a divot before meeting a sleek and subtly downturned saddle stem of black vulcanite. Up front, the bowl takes on the timeless Fugu aesthetic, with twin asymmetrical panels that stand opposed to each other on either flank, separated by a wrapping pane of briar through the midsection. This build makes for a singular feel in hand, and that is accentuated here thanks to Zhan's attention to detail: carving the lower flanks of these panels near the aft side to resemble a fish's fins while leaving enough curvature near the middle to be plump and comfortable. Dressed in a crisp, earthy sandblast, the stummel is rich with texture, the flanks of the bowl showcasing dense oceans of birdseye, while the middle strip is striated by flame grain and rippling growth rings.

-John McElheny
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 6.60 in./167.64 mm.
  • Weight: 1.30 oz./36.85 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.84 in./46.74 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.44 in./36.58 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in./19.81 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.45 in./36.83 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Freehand
  • Finish: Sandblast
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: China
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