May you have an ample official income
Just like the English word ‘bat’ can mean ‘a kind of animal’ in one context and ‘a club for playing tennis’ in another, so can pictures of animals and flowers in a pictorial design called ‘pun rebus’ in Chinese art. For example, the Chinese name for deer is lu 鹿, which is a pun on lu 禄 ‘emolument’ or ‘official income’. A pun rebus design known as bai lu 百禄 adorns a Ming wucai (five-coloured) jar and Qing fencai (famille rose) jars here. The design consists of, ideally, one hundred deer, and conveys the message ‘May you have an ample official income’! Not a bad idea as a present for a friend or relative who works in civil service.
Fig 1: porcelain jar, Wanli period (1573 – 1620), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei
Fig 2 & 3: porcelain jars, Qianlong period (1736 – 96), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei
Fig 4: porcelain jar, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Fig 5: porcelain jar, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), courtesy of Tokyo Fuji Art Museum