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Symbols in Chinese Antiques - Eight Immortals and Phoenix Print E-mail

John Rogers: Hi, I'm John.

Yuqing Zhao: I'm Yuqing.

John Rogers: And we're here today to talk about some of the magnificent symbols that are found in Chinese architecture, furniture and even household items. Today we have a pair of carvings that were found in an over 200 year old house that was demolished. And these carvings were rescued and thank heavens they were because they're absolutely beautifully, beautifully done with some of their original paint still on them. Yuqing, do you want to tell us about the meaning of these four gods?

Yuqing Zhao: Sure, these are the gods of good fortune, god of longevity, god of ranking and god of happiness. Let me put one down. Now this is the god of ranking. He wears an official's hat. He has a "ruyi" which is a wish granting wand in his hand. This is god of ranking and this is god of longevity. He has a protruding forehead. And he also has a peach which also means longevity in his hand. He uses a walking stick which means this old guy and he lives a really, really long time. This is god of good fortune. He is just like a retired official. And this is god of happiness. He is a happy boy as you can see obviously.

John Rogers: Two more fragments we want to show you and this is a pair of Phoenixes. Again, please look at how beautifully carved they are both on the sides and on the front. Again, very heavy wood taken from a house that was destroyed but a house that's over 200 years old. Yuqing, do you want to tell us about the meaning? I'm going to put mine down because it's very, very heavy.

Yuqing Zhao: Okay a pair of Phoenix means happiness. Especially in this one has more meanings than just happiness. You see in the carving detail there are two scrolls in the Phoenix mouth. And this means knowledge as well besides happiness. And plus it's really beautifully crafted.

John Rogers: So you can see how when you know something about what the symbols mean, it can add such richness to the things that you can enjoy in your own home. Thanks so much, bye-bye.