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Fish bowl with lotus pond and flying egrets
Place of Origin: China, Jiangxi province
Historical Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Reign of the Kangxi emperor (1662-1722)
Materials: Porcelain with polychrome underglaze and overglaze decoration
Style or Ware: wucai
Dimensions: H. 12 1/2 in x D. 15 1/8 in, H. 31.8 cm x D. 38.5 cm
Credit Line: Transfer from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Department: Chinese Art
Collection: Ceramics
Object Number: 1995.51
On Display: No

Description

Label:

The term for "single egret" (yilu) is a pun for the phrase "all along the way" (yilu). When the egret (lu) and the lotus plant (lian) are depicted together, they form the rebus: "May you pass your exams one after another" (yilu lianke). Flying egrets represent the wishes: "May you fly with the wind" (yilu shunfeng), another image of continuous success.

Colorful and visually striking, this large bowl exemplifies the fashionable and glamourous taste of the Manchu emperor Kangxi. He reorganized the administration at the imperial porcelain manufacture in Jingdezhen, in southeastern China, to produce luxury porcelain.  Bowls like these were supplied to aristocrat-owned gardens and mansions, and depending on the climate and seasons, were intended for either indoor or outdoor use for holding fish or flowers. The subject, egrets amid a lotus, has multiple levels of meaning. The bird with white feathers is often associated with the virtues of honesty and incorruptibility of officials. The term for a single egret is homophonous with the phrase “all the way to the end”; together with the lotus and the seed, the motifs form a pun for “victory in successive civil service examinations all the way.”  The decorative method combined multiple colors applied separately as underglaze and over the fired glaze. Resultingly, as seen on this bowl, each color area—red, green, gold, black, and blue— contributes to the overall effect. The irregular form of interlaced leaves and blossoms, scattered with egrets, hidden behind leaves or flying upside down, creates a charming amination that adds to the vision of an aquatic world.   8/2017 LH



More Information

Exhibition History: Hidden Meanings: Symbolism in Chinese Imperial Arts, October 7- December 31, 2006
"Hidden Meanings: Symbolism in Chinese Art," SFO United Terminal, June 4, 2010 - January 19, 2011
Label:

The term for "single egret" (yilu) is a pun for the phrase "all along the way" (yilu). When the egret (lu) and the lotus plant (lian) are depicted together, they form the rebus: "May you pass your exams one after another" (yilu lianke). Flying egrets represent the wishes: "May you fly with the wind" (yilu shunfeng), another image of continuous success.

Colorful and visually striking, this large bowl exemplifies the fashionable and glamourous taste of the Manchu emperor Kangxi. He reorganized the administration at the imperial porcelain manufacture in Jingdezhen, in southeastern China, to produce luxury porcelain.  Bowls like these were supplied to aristocrat-owned gardens and mansions, and depending on the climate and seasons, were intended for either indoor or outdoor use for holding fish or flowers. The subject, egrets amid a lotus, has multiple levels of meaning. The bird with white feathers is often associated with the virtues of honesty and incorruptibility of officials. The term for a single egret is homophonous with the phrase “all the way to the end”; together with the lotus and the seed, the motifs form a pun for “victory in successive civil service examinations all the way.”  The decorative method combined multiple colors applied separately as underglaze and over the fired glaze. Resultingly, as seen on this bowl, each color area—red, green, gold, black, and blue— contributes to the overall effect. The irregular form of interlaced leaves and blossoms, scattered with egrets, hidden behind leaves or flying upside down, creates a charming amination that adds to the vision of an aquatic world.   8/2017 LH



Exhibition History: Hidden Meanings: Symbolism in Chinese Imperial Arts, October 7- December 31, 2006
"Hidden Meanings: Symbolism in Chinese Art," SFO United Terminal, June 4, 2010 - January 19, 2011