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Motifs & Symbols

Browse terms in alphabetical order according to their Chinese Pinyin.

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

Pines, bamboos, and plum blossoms 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 harsh […]

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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:

Basic element in Chinese pictorial art, presented as a motif or used for pun for auspicious wishes.   Related Pictorial Element: Fish turning into dragon 鱼化龙

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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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Chinese Pinyin: Zhe Gui
Chinese: 折桂
Name Of Image: Plucking a branch of osmanthus blossom
Description:

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 […]

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Chinese Pinyin: Zhi Ji (Chang Wei Zhi)
Chinese: 雉鸡 (长尾雉)
Name Of Image: Pheasant
Description:

Long-tailed bird. To be differentiated from other birds in Chinese painting, such as peacock, phoenix, rooster, quail, magpie, sparrow, etc.   Related Pun Rebus: May the country enjoy peace and good order permanently 长治久安

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Chinese Pinyin: Zhu
Chinese:
Name Of Image: Bamboo
Description:

Bamboo in Chinese art is a symbol for a man to be humble in quality. When bamboo is painted together with pine trees and/or plum blossoms, it symbolises as one of the ‘three friends in the winter’. The pronunciation of […]

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