Eight Daoist Immortals are congratulating your birthday
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In this motif composition, the eight Daoist Immortals (ba xian 八仙) are not depicted in figural images, but rather are represented by their distinctive attributes respectively. The fan stands for Zhongli Quan 钟离权, the sword stands for Lv Dongbin 吕洞宾, the clapper stands for Cao Guojiu 曹国舅, the bamboo flute stands for Han Xiangzi 韩湘子, the lotus flower or the bamboo colander stands for He Xian’gu 何仙姑, the basket of flowers stands for Lan Caihe 蓝采和, the double gourd stands for Li Tieguai 李铁拐, and the membranophone fish drum stands for Zhang Guolao 张果老.
The arrangement of the eight emblems of the immortals surrounding either an image of a peach, which is symbolic for longevity, or a pictorial form of a Chinese character – ‘shou 寿 or 壽’, which also means ‘longevity’, is emphasising the message which celebrates the receiver’s birthday and wishes the receiver a long life.
Pictorial listings with similar themes:
Heavenly immortals and fairies are celebrating your birthday 天仙拱寿
Fig 1: porcelain moon flask vase, Qianlong period (1736–95), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Fig 2: porcelain moon flask vase, Qianlong period (1736–95), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei
Fig 3: porcelain dish, 18th-19th century, courtesy of Tokyo National Museum