Blogs

Interesting findings & case studies on commonly misunderstood and mystery images

Hongwu porcelain with underglaze blue and underglaze red decoration has been the treasure from the beginning of Ming Dynasty which was established by Emperor Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang.

General Guo Ziyi deterring the mighty enemy has been a famous event in ancient China around mid-8th century. Deciphering this story scene on Chinese porcelain plates and tiles, however, has not been straightforward and has taken iconography specialists decades to decode. Congratulations to Dr Yibin Ni who is the first scholar who identified this image on Chinese porcelain.

Have you ever wondered why the image of the prunus has been a popular motif in Chinese decorative art? Why do Chinese literati love to write poems about plum blossoms and paint them in their art works? Dr Yibin Ni will explain to you the symbolic meanings of the prunus and how scholar-artists started to relate themselves to the prunus from the Song dynasty onward.

‘Imperial Consort Lady Yang Getting Drunk’ has been a popular Chinese story plot since the seventeenth century. However, many renowned museums are still not able to identify this story scene on the porcelains in their collection. Dr Yibin Ni will illustrate with a few examples here.

‘Wu Song slaying the tiger’ is a popular fictional story among Chinese people. But it’s hardly noticed that this story scene has been chosen in Chinoiserie decorative art in Europe. Here is Dr Yibin Ni’s interesting research and his unique insights.

Dragon and phoenix are commonly seen motifs in Chinese visual culture. Tiger, qilin and tortoise, at the same time, are favoured creatures symbolic for auspice. But when the motifs of the above five beasts are combined together, they have more meanings than they do individually. Here is what Dr Yibin Ni has to say about this motif combination.

‘Yang Xiang trying to throttle the tiger to rescue her father’ is a well-known story passed down from generation to generation in ancient China. However, Yang Xiang has sometimes been portrayed as a male figure on traditional Chinese artworks. Let’s invite Dr Yibin Ni to explain the reasons behind this puzzling phenomenon.

2022 is the year of Tiger according to Chinese lunar calendar. Dr Yibin Ni has conducted a research overview of the pictorial representation of the tiger in the background of Chinese culture and history, from the origin of its motif in relics to various artistic forms in traditional decorative arts over the past three thousand years.

‘福 fu’, a Chinese character bearing an auspicious meaning of ‘good fortune’, has been used often in Chinese decorative arts. Dr Yibin Ni will tell you some interesting stories related to this character and how the intended meaning is represented in various art forms.

The story scene comes from a marvel play Legend of the Jade Hairpin, which is not to be confused with the scene in Romance of the Western Chamber. Read the following article to find out details of the story and how this figural scene is depicted.