Symbolisms of a Chinese Painting

11 May

In our upcoming May sale, we are excited to be offering a still life attributed to Yu Sheng (Chinese, 1692-1767). The upper right of the painting featuring a blue and white dragon vase holding blossoming magnolia flowers along with a halbert. The lower right with two ripe peaches and the left with a basket of peonies. At first glance, one might not realize the selection of these items for this composition is not random. Every element is symbolic of one’s well wishes. Starting from the flowers, the white magnolias is reminiscent of jade and the peonies represent wealth; together it forms the rebus ‘yu tang fu gui’ (jade hall of prosperity and honor). As for the vase, it does not just holds the magnolia, but there is a halbert as well. One might ask why would anybody put a weapon such as a halbert in a bouquet of flowers? The halbert pronounced ‘ji’ is a homonym with rank, and vase pronounced ‘ping’ is a homonym with smoothly or peacefully. With the play of words, the meaning behind this rebus is one with rise in the ranks peacefully. As for the peaches, they have a long tradition of symbolizing longevity. Maybe the next time you look at a Chinese still life, ponder on the symbolism.
Attributed to Yu Sheng (Chinese, 1692-1767), Vase of Magnolia along with Peonies and Peaches, ink and color on paper, the lower left bearing signature 'chen Yu Sheng gong hui', sealed 'Chen Yu Sheng' and 'zhao zhao ran han'

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