Symbolical objects/Rebus Design


Many of the motifs on chinese ceramics were meant to convey an auspicious symbolical meaning.  

Symbolical objects 

Some are easy to understand once we know the quality traditionally attached to the object. For example,  the pomegranate represents fertility as it has many seeds.  Some other common examples are as follows:

Rebus Design

Another category is the rebus design which utilised the similarity of the pronunciation for the object and and another character/word to convey the meaning.  For example, the bat is used  as the chinese pronunciation for both bat  and happiness is fu.  Some other examples are given below:

The more complicated ones may utilise both a combination of  the symbolical objects and/or rebus design to allude to usually good wishes or felicitous phrases related to happiness, prosperity, longevity and success in life.  The two common ones are:

Happiness/blessings, preferment/emolument, longevity  (fu, lu, shou) is a favourite theme on decorated ceramics, especially during the Qing Dynasty. 

It can be represented by the Taoist Triad, shou-xing, lu-xing and fu-xing, stargods of Longevity (bald old man on the left top), Preferment and Happiness (man carrying a boy).

It can  also be in a symbolic form,  for eg. as on the motif on the left bottom. The pine tree and lingzhi fungus represent shou (longevity), deer for lu (preferment), and  the bat in the sky represents fu (happiness).



The design of the five bats (same prounciation with happiness/blessing) is a pictorial rebus standing for the Five Blessings:  old age, wealth, health, love of virtue and natural death. 

There are other variations of the wu fu.   The most common being wu fu peng shou. This is usually in a symbolic form of shou (such as shou lao on the crane, chinese character "shou" or the peach) encircled by 5 bats.  This is a congratulatory form of motif.  The character "peng" means to present.  It is usually used to congratulate a person on his birthday and allude to wishing ("presenting") him a long life.