Chinese Antique Furniture Shop Videos Book Reviews Symbols Resources About UsContact Us Visit Us
Symbols in Chinese Antiques - Animals and Chinese Characters Print E-mail

John Rogers: Hi, I'm John.

Yuqing Zhao: I'm Yuqing.

John Rogers: And we're here today to talk to you about some more symbols that we found on smaller items, smaller frankly, household items. This panel that I'm holding in my hand is a fragment that was taken from a cabinet that was too far gone to be restored. Yuqing, do you want to tell us about the symbolism on this cabinet?

Yuqing Zhao: Sure. The stuff carved on the panel is an elephant and an acrobat. The elephant means wisdom and change. So we like to use this furniture all the time.

John Rogers: So the second piece we have is a basket. And a basket is obviously four clouds surrounding a piece of calligraphy. Yuqing, what does that calligraphy mean?

Yuqing Zhao: Well yeah this character is double happiness. So obviously this item is a gift to a newly married couple. Double happiness represents good fortune and longevity. Also around this character there are some clouds. It's abstract paintings of clouds. The clouds mean wisdom and heavenly blessing.

John Rogers: So again, even on a small piece such as this you have some real richness when you understand something about the symbols that're included on the pieces themselves. Two more, Yuqing what is this little animal? And first of all what is this mold?

Yuqing Zhao: Yeah, this is a cookie mold. We use this to make moon cake. Moon cake is a thick cookie we always eat, we like to eat. And in this cookie mold is carved an animal and the animal is a bat. A bat means good fortune because it has same pronunciation of Chinese character of good fortune. So we always use bats to symbolize good fortune.

John Rogers: And it's so interesting to me because in this country, the United States, bats are feared. But in China, bats are considered a really good aspect of blessing and the last one Yuqing?

Yuqing Zhao: Yes this is another cookie mold where we have a Chinese character in the middle and five butterflies around it. The Chinese character is longevity. And the five butterflies means five elements. John you can talk some more about that.

John Rogers: Okay, the concept of good fortune in Chinese lore or literature is made up of five different elements. There's health, there's wealth, there's living to a ripe old age, leading a moral life and finally a natural death at a very old age. So again you see the opportunities to learn some more about Chinese that adds meaning and richness to the designs of what you own.