A legend recorded in a Chinese book, Huainanzi (淮南子), compiled around 139 BCE says a beautiful girl called Chang E (嫦娥) has been living on the moon for thousands of years. Chang E swallowed elixir and her body became so light that she ascended to heaven, settling down on the nearest planet, the Moon.
At first, ancient pictures of this story only showed a toad, an osmanthus tree, and her pet bunny, who is often seen standing on his hind feet pounding some medicine in a mortar. Later on, ‘plucking a branch of osmanthus blossom’ became a metaphor for ‘top contestants in examinations’ and Chang E turned out to be a popular bestower of blessings for scholars and students.
Fig 1-4: blue-and-white covered tureens, c.1700, courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland
Fig 5: porcelain wine ewer, Wanli period (1573 – 1620), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the British Museum, London
Fig 6: jar, Shunzhi period (1644 – 1661), dated 1646, with later painted decoration, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago
Fig 7-8: blue-and-white covered tureen, Kangxi period (1662 – 1722) with Jiajing mark, Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Stamen Collection
Fig 9-10: blue-and-white covered tureen, Kangxi period (1662 – 1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig 11: ovoid covered jar, c.1680 – c.1720, courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland