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Motifs & Symbols

Alternatively, browse terms in alphabetical order according to their Chinese Pinyin 汉语拼音

Chinese Pinyin: Shou
Chinese: 寿
Name Of Image: Longevity
Description:

The Chinese deeply respect the elderly and consider a long existence – ideally accompanied by health and happiness – to be one of the five most important blessings (wufu 五福) in a person’s life, which were believed by the ancients …

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Chinese Pinyin: Shu Kui Jia Die
Chinese: 蜀葵蛱蝶
Name Of Image: Hollyhocks and butterflies
Description:

Hollyhock (shu kui 蜀葵) implies that people’s hearts will follow their statesman or emperor.   Related motif: Butterfly 蝴蝶

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Chinese Pinyin: Shuang Ji Mu Dan
Chinese: 双犄牡丹
Name Of Image: Two-horned peony blossom
Description:

Common sources such as Baidu refer to the motif of a peony flower head with two distinctive ‘horns’ as a characteristic feature unique to Chinese porcelain of the Kangxi period (1662 – 1722). As a matter of fact, the tradition …

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Chinese Pinyin: Sui Han San You
Chinese: 岁寒三友
Name Of Image: Three Friends in Winter
Description:

Pines, bamboos, and plum blossoms (prunus) form the ‘Three Friends in Winter’ (岁寒三友) motif. The early blossoming plum is the harbinger of spring; the bamboo bends in wind but does not break; and the pine needles remain green throughout the …

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Chinese Pinyin: Tao
Chinese:
Name Of Image: Peach fruit
Description:

The peach fruit usually symbolises longevity or immortality in Chinese pictorial art. The origin of this idea started from legends dating back to the third century. Read Dr Yibin Ni’s research article for related literatures and legendary stories from ancient …

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Chinese Pinyin: Wan
Chinese: 卐 (万字)
Name Of Image: Swastika (the Wan character in Chinese)
Description:

Either the clockwise swastika 卐 or the counterclockwise sauwastika 卍 is used interchangeably in Chinese decorative arts as well as in some religious contexts. Sometimes, the two opposite versions can co-occur on the same occasion without making a difference in …

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Chinese Pinyin: Xuan Cao (Bai He Hua)
Chinese: 萱草 (百合花)
Name Of Image: Lily
Description:

‘Xuan 萱’ comes from ‘xuan cao 萱草’,the Chinese name for ‘lily’. In traditional Chinese decorative arts, lily flowers symbolise motherhood and maternal bonds with children, and they figure prominently on articles created for mothers, expecting or being a birthday girl. …

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Chinese Pinyin: Yi Ba Lian
Chinese: 一把莲
Name Of Image: Lotus bouquet
Description:

Also called ‘yi shu lian’ (一束莲). The motif is presented as ‘a ribbon-tied bouquet of lotus in bud, full bloom, and seed pods accompanied by leaves, with or without some other water plants such as arrowheads’. The earliest example of …

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Chinese Pinyin: Yu
Chinese:
Name Of Image: Fish
Description:

Fish is a basic composition motif in Chinese pictorial art. Its Chinese pronunciation of 鱼 ‘yu’ puns with the word 余 ‘yu’, meaning prosperity. It is an auspicious wish to one’s wealth. Depending on the context, the actual type of …

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Chinese Pinyin: Yu Hua Long
Chinese: 鱼化龙
Name Of Image: Fish turning into dragon
Description:

Ordinary fish in the pond was hoped by ancient Chinese people to turn into a vigorous and powerful dragon flying in the sky. It can be traced back to as early as Song dynasty in Chinese literature for children or …

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