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Interesting findings & case studies on commonly misunderstood and mystery images

Congratulations to Dr Yibin Ni for his new findings on the Ming Potter Wu Wei and his beautiful porcelain artworks that have been collected around the world yet not properly identified. Dr Ni’s findings have contributed greatly in identifying the age and authenticity of the Chinese ceramics.

Pheasant is one of the most popular birds painted in traditional Chinese art, besides phoenix, crane and rooster. Due to its characteristic long-tail, pheasant is often used in pun rebus pictures, as ‘chang 长’ and ‘zhi 雉’ in this bird’s Chinese name ‘chang wei zhi 长尾雉’ pun on the other Chinese words ‘chang 长’ and ‘zhi 治’, meaning to regulate for a long time. Artworks containing this motif express the wish to the receiver to govern a country or a state for a long time.

Pheasant is often presented in combination with shou shi (寿石, rocks symbolising for longevity), peony or quail to serve their symbolic or pun purposes.

 

Related Pun Rebus:

May the country enjoy peace and good order permanently 长治久安

Related Symbolic Pictures:

What does a daily life scene of cooking have to do with politics?

Pun Design: Long-tailed Pheasant + Quail

Punning Details:

The combination of the first and third words in ‘chang wei zhi 长尾雉’ for ‘long-tailed pheasant’ is ‘chang zhi’ and it puns on the phrase ‘chang zhi 长治’ for ‘long-term good order (in a country)’. The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. Some images would even depict nine quails to make a pun on the number ‘nine (jiu 九)’ for ‘jiu 久’ meaning ‘for a long time’. Thus, these natural motifs form a pun rebus to convey the intended auspicious message to wish for a country to be in good order and a peaceful status for a long time.

Also named as ‘Jiu An Chang Zhi 久安长治

 

画面要素: 长尾雉 + 鹌鹑

谐音详情: ‘长尾雉’中首尾二字与‘长治’谐音; ‘鹌鹑’中‘鹌’与‘安’谐音。以画面祝国家得以长期治理,民生平安。

Pun Design: Quail + Long-tailed Pheasant

Punning Details:

The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. The combination of the first and third words in ‘chang wei zhi 长尾雉’ for ‘long-tailed pheasant’ is ‘chang zhi’ and it puns on the phrase ‘chang zhi’ for ‘long-term good order (in a country)’. Thus, these natural motifs form a pun rebus to convey the intended auspicious message.

Some images will depict nine quails to make a pun on the number ‘nine (jiu 九)’ for ‘jiu 久’ meaning ‘for a long time’.

Also named as Chang Zhi Jiu An 长治久安.

 

画面要素: 鹌鹑 + 长尾雉

谐音详情: ‘鹌鹑’中‘鹌’与‘安’谐音; ‘长尾雉’中首尾二字与‘长治’谐音, 寓意祝长期国泰民安

San gong 三公’ are the ‘Three Top Lords in the Imperial Court’. The ‘gong 公’ from the Chinese name ‘gong ji 公鸡’ for ‘rooster’ puns on the Chinese name for ‘lord’ and three roosters in the picture represent the three top lords, which are the three top positions in the imperial court. The Chinese name for ‘cypress’ is ‘bai 柏’, which puns on ‘bai 百’ for ‘one hundred’. Hence the whole image expresses the wish for highly respected person to have a very long life.

 

Related Blog:

The Birthday Party of the Queen Mother of the West 西王母祝寿

Related motif:

Rooster 公鸡

Da ji 大鸡’ for ‘large rooster’ makes a pun on ‘da ji 大吉’ for ‘tremendous good luck’. This image can be expressed as a good wish for someone who has just started a new business venture.

 

Related motif:

Rooster 公鸡

Shuang 双’ is the Chinese word for ‘two’. ‘Xiong 雄’ in ‘Xiong ji 雄鸡’ in the Chinese name for ‘rooster’ makes a pun on ‘xiong 雄’ for ‘hero’. Thus, the image of two roosters in confrontation is meant to represent two competent officials competing with their intelligence for eminent government posts.

 

Related Pun Pictures:

May you rank among the three top civil servants 位列三公

May you do well in exams and enjoy wealth and prestige 功名富贵

Related motif:

Rooster 公鸡

San gong 三公’ are the ‘Three Top Lords in the Imperial Court’. The ‘gong 公’ from the Chinese name ‘gong ji 公鸡’ for ‘rooster’ puns on the Chinese name for ‘lord’ and three roosters in the picture represent the three top lords, which are the three top positions in the imperial court.

 

Related Pun Pictures:

Two heroes fighting with their intelligence 双雄斗智

May you couple live a harmonious life and enjoy prestige 并蒂双贵

 

Related motif:

Rooster 公鸡

The saying ‘jia guan 加官’ is an abbreviated form of the saying ‘guan shang jia guan 官上加官’:

Guan 冠’ in the Chinese name ‘ji guan hua 鸡冠花’ for ‘cockscomb’ is a pun on ‘guan 官’, which means ‘high-ranking official’. The crest on the head of a rooster is also called ‘guan 冠’ in Chinese. Thus, the appearance of both the cockscomb and rooster in a picture represents the auspicious saying ‘guan shang jia guan 官上加官’, which is literally “an official plus an official” and is used to wish an official to get promotion after promotion.

Related Pun Pictures:

May your chance of promotion be just round the corner 指日高升

May you couple live a harmonious life and enjoy prestige 并蒂双贵

May everything fare fabulously in your family 室上大吉

Related motif:

Rooster 公鸡

Guan 冠’ in the Chinese name ‘ji guan hua 鸡冠花’ for ‘cockscomb’ is a pun on ‘guan 官’, which means ‘high-ranking official’. The crest on the head of a rooster is also called ‘guan 冠’ in Chinese. Thus, the appearance of both the cockscomb and rooster in a picture represents the auspicious saying ‘guan shang jia guan 官上加官’, which is literally “an official plus an official” and is used to wish an official to get promotion after promotion.

As a variation, the popular auspicious good wish in the bureaucratic world can be expressed with a substitution of a grasshopper (guo guo’er 蝈蝈儿 in Beijing dialect) for the cockscomb plant. In Beijing dialect, the name of the grasshopper sounds similar to the word for ‘high official (guan’er 官儿)’. A further variation of the visual pun replaces the rooster with a jar. The jar, which is guan’er 罐儿 in Beijing dialect, puns on the word for ‘high official (guan’er 官儿)’.

This saying can be abbreviated as jia guan 加官’.

 

Related Pun Pictures:

May you do well in exams and enjoy wealth and prestige 功名富

May you enjoy imminent good fortune 大吉

Related motif:

Rooster 公鸡

Fu gui 富贵’ in ‘fu gui hua 富贵花’, literally, the ‘flower of wealth and prestige’,  which is a nickname in Chinese for ‘peony’, contributes to ‘wealth and privilege’ in the saying. ‘Ji 鸡’ is a pun on ‘qi 期’, which means ‘can be expected’.

The same design may be also referred to as ‘gong ming fu gui 功名富贵’.

 

Related motifs:

Rooster 公鸡

Peony 富贵花

The Chinese phrase ‘Gong ming 功名’ for ‘scholarly honour or official rank’ is a pun on two Chinese characters ‘gong 公’ and ‘ming 鸣’.

Gong 公’ from ‘gong ji 公鸡’, the Chinese name for ‘rooster’, makes pun on the Chinese word ‘gong 功’; and ‘ming 鸣’, which is the Chinese word for ‘cock’s crowing’, is a pun on ‘ming 名’.

Peony has a nickname in Chinese as ‘fu gui hua 富贵花’, literally, the ‘flower of wealth and prestige’.

Thus, the combination of roosters and peony flowers in one picture in Chinese people’s eyes sends the message of wishing someone do well in civil-service examinations, and go on to enjoy a rich and prestigious life.

The design may also be referred to as fu gui you qi 富贵有期’.

 

Related motifs:

Rooster 公鸡

Peony 富贵花

Ji 鸡’ is a generic name for cockerel, hen, and chick, and sounds the same as ‘ji 吉’ for ‘good fortune’. Thus, a picture of many chickens is used to represent ‘abundant good fortune’.

 

Related Pun Pictures:

May you enjoy imminent good fortune 大吉

May everything fare fabulously in your family 室上大吉 

Related motif: Rooster 公鸡

A large Longquan pottery rooster sculpted on a rock sends good fortune to the receiver’s or owner’s family because da ji 大 鸡 for ‘large rooster’ sounds the same as da ji 大 吉 for ‘great good fortune’ and shi shang 石上 for ‘on the rock’ puns on shi shang 室上 for ‘in your family’. Hence the rooster announces to the proud owner “May everything fare fabulously in your family!”

 

Related Pun Picture: May you enjoy imminent good fortune 大吉

Related motif: Rooster 公鸡

The Chinese name for rooster or chicken is ji 鸡, which is a pun on ji 吉 ‘good fortune’. ‘Da’ is the Chinese adjective for ‘big’ and ‘da ji‘ literally means ‘large rooster’ but puns on ‘great luck’.

Thus, these paintings convey the message ‘May you enjoy imminent good fortune’. It can be used on many social occasions where people wish the receiver to enjoy good fortune.

 

Related Pun Pictures:

May everything fare fabulously in your family 室上大吉

May you be blessed by good luck in all you do 百吉

Related motif: Rooster 公鸡

One of the most commonly used motifs that depicts household fowls. It has also been frequently used in pun rebuses for the meaning of ‘good fortune’ or ‘good wishes’, as its Chinese pronunciation is ji 鸡, the same as ji 吉, which means good fortune. See more below.

 

Related Pun Rebus Pictures:

May everything fare fabulously in your family shi 室上大吉 

May you enjoy imminent good fortune 大吉