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Grapes grow in clusters of up to 300 berries each and thus produce an enormous number of seeds. This property was regarded by the ancient Chinese as an apt allusion to their wish for a large number of offspring. That is why grapes are seen adorning various kinds of Chinese antiques, handcrafts, and bric-a-brac, often, together with squirrels, which are known for their amazing ability to multiply, and the two together form a make-belief scene of animal eating habit.


Fig 1: dish with grapevines and floral scrolls, Jianwen – Yongle period (1399 – 1424), courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland

Fig 2: porcelain dish, Yongle period (1403 – 24), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the British Museum, London

Fig 3: blue-and-white dish, Xuande period (1426 – 35), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art

Fig 4: cup, Chenghua period (1465 – 87), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei

Fig 5: oval cinnabar dish, 16th-17th century, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei

Fig 6: gourd-shaped vase, Yongzheng period (1723 – 35), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei

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