Mount Penglai (J., Hôraisan) was believed to have been the land of immortals in the eastern sea in Chinese mythology. It can look like a cloud or an island floating on the sea. When mortals try to draw near it, they are blown away by the wind. The Daoist hagiography Liexian zhuan (Biography of Immortals), which was written during the Six Dynasties period (220-589), explains that Penglai could be found on the back of a giant turtle. The inkstone case here depicts this image.
The lid, body, and nesting box all have rims lined in tin. The decorative elements—such as the depiction of Mount Penglai using takamakie (raised sprinkled metal design), gold tsukegaki (drawing with lacquer lines that are sprinkled over with gold filings), silver kirigane (cut foil), and other traditional lacquer techniques on a pear-skin ground (J., nashiji)—are the epitome of classical elegance, at the same time, the expression of the turtle is somewhat humorous.
This inkstone case is thought to correspond with an “antique Penglai makie” mentioned in the tea master and feudal lord Matsudaira Fumai’s (1751-1818) inventory of tea utensils, Unshû kurachô (Inventory of Treasures Owned by the Lord of Matsue Domain). Thus, at one time, it appears to have belonged to Fumai.