Hollyhocks and butterflies


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The primary symbolic meaning of the hollyhock (shu kui 蜀葵) is the good wish for longevity. The secondary implication is based on the perennially sun-facing nature of the hollyhock. In the old days, people compared their emperor or statesman to the sun and themselves to the hollyhock, implying that they would always be loyal to the authority.

Further meaning of the motif combination of the hollyhock and the butterfly is worth discussing, as some researchers suggest that the hollyhock and the butterfly are used as a metaphor for romantic relationships.


Fig 1-2: Hollyhock and Butterflies, hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, Dai Jin (戴进, 1388–1462), early Ming dynasty, courtesy of the Palace Museum, Beijing

Fig 3: blue-and-white porcelain bowl, Chenghua period (1465–87), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the ATAKA Collection, the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, photograph by MUDA Tomohiro

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