Plucking a branch of osmanthus blossom
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival falls on the night of full moon in the eighth lunar month. Chang E (嫦娥), the Moon Goddess, is worshiped on this occasion. Chang E’s husband was the legendary archer, Yi (or Hou Yi, 后羿), and kept the elixir of immortality for the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu, 西王母). Out of boredom and curiosity, Chang E tasted the elixir. As a result, she turned into an immortal and flew to the moon, where there was a hare grinding the bark of the osmanthus tree with a pestle in a mortar to prepare some medicine. The hare became her loyal companion. The osmanthus tree prominent in the Moon Palace was a symbol for elite talents who passed the civil-service examinations with flying colours. And art works bearing images of Chang E bestowing a sprig of osmanthus blossoms to scholars were suitable presents for those who were sitting for exams!
Fig 1-2: porcelain jar, transitional period, courtesy of Sotheby’s auction, Paris, 2019
Fig 3-6: porcelain vase, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Fig 7: porcelain round covered box with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662 – 1722), courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, Oxford