May you be created a peer and earn a handsome official income
This pun rebus picture consists of four essential pictorial elements: bird, deer, bee, and monkey. The word ‘que 雀’ for ‘small bird’ in Chinese puns on the word ‘jue 爵’ for ‘high official rank’ or ‘peerage’. The word ‘lu 鹿’ for ‘deer’ shares the same sound with ‘lu 禄’ for ‘emolument’ or ‘salary’. The word ‘feng 蜂’ for ‘bee’, is a pun on ‘feng 封’ for the verb ‘to be granted’ and the word ‘hou 猴’ for ‘monkey’ is a pun on ‘hou 侯’ for ‘marquis’, which represents high ranks in the government in general. Thus, the juxtaposition of the four elements is used to convey the auspicious message of ‘May you be created a peer and earn a handsome official income’.
Curios bearing such motifs have been used as treasured gifts passing among friends and colleagues to lubricate the social machinery.
Related Pun Pictures:
Fig 1: underglaze blue porcelain dish, Longqing period (1567-72), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the British Museum, London
Fig 2: wucai porcelain dish, Chongzhen period (1628-44), Kilburn, R.S. (1981), Transitional Wares and Their Forerunners, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, p.137-139
Fig 3: porcelain dish, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Jie Rui Tang Collection
Fig 4-5: porcelain container, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), courtesy of Nanjing University Museum, China