Many museums and auction houses are often unaware of the pun rebuses hidden in traditional Chinese pictures and have treated them as mere naturalistic ones. Thus, the cultural and social significance contained in the motifs are unfortunately overlooked. Here is an example of a pun rebus design with four different fishes, which conventionally expresses the idea of ‘May you remain pure, clean, and incorruptible’, but was not recognised by most art institutes.
This is a republication of Dr Yibin Ni’s article written in Chinese “明末清初瓷器上张生的‘凝视’和莺莺的挑战”(Gaze from Scholar Zhang and the response from Lady Cui Yingying: a discussion of figural depiction on porcelains from Late Ming to Early Qing dynasty).
In Chinese culture and pictorial art, the peach fruit is often used to wish for long life on birthday parties. How does this fruit become associated with the idea of longevity? Here is Dr Yibin Ni explaining to us the origin of legendary stories related to the peach through his research work over literatures and treasurable artworks.
A bear or a monkey? Understanding the meaning of pictorial art in the light of Chinese pun rebus culture
When you mistake a motif in a traditional Chinese picture, you could have misinterpreted the meaning of the whole image intended by the ancient craftsman. Dr Yibin Ni has used the following example to illustrate the hidden meaning of a series of images in the context of Chinese pun rebus culture.
Appreciation of Chinese visual art: depiction of Laozi, the personification of Dao (Tao) on a buffalo’s back
Have you ever wondered why images of an old scholarly man riding a buffalo are often depicted on Chinese antiques? What is so special about this man who looks highly respected and followed by yet still sitting on a buffalo’s back? We hereby invite art historian Dr Yibin Ni to solve the mystery…
Have you wondered why you often see an image of a man lying or ‘dancing’ beside a large fish on Chinese antiques? Is it referring to some figure and story in ancient China? Here is Dr Yibin Ni explaining to us the meaning of this touching story that reveals the traditional Chinese virtue of filial piety.
Xiahou Dun, a heroic soldier in ancient China, was famous for his one-eyed appearance. Let’s appreciate how Dr Yibin Ni analyses the artistic presentation of this character on Chinese antique porcelain, woodblock print and other art forms, in association with comparable figures in Western culture.
There have been a few interesting discussions even guesses on a mysterious scene which depicts mainly three figures surrounding a large bowl. The story scene actually comes from an important anecdote in Song dynasty in China. Let Dr Yibin Ni explain to you with fascinating details.
Have you ever been puzzled by the description of ‘figural paintings’ for Chinese porcelains listed by various museums and auction catalogues? In fact, many Chinese paintings with figures refer to ancient stories and have meanings behind the scenes. Here is an unusual story about an official and his pet crane.
Do you wonder why two warriors are waving swords over a rock that looks like a cross bun? Let Dr Yibin Ni demystify this enigmatic scene for you, which illustrates the old Chinese saying ‘bedfellows dream different dreams’!