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‘Guan 冠’ in the Chinese name ‘ji guan hua 鸡冠花’ for ‘cockscomb’ is a pun on ‘guan 官’, which means ‘high-ranking official’. The crest on the head of a rooster is also called ‘guan 冠’ in Chinese. Thus, the appearance of both the cockscomb and rooster in a picture represents the auspicious saying ‘guan shang jia guan 官上加官’, which is literally “an official plus an official” and is used to wish an official to get promotion after promotion.
As a variation, the popular auspicious good wish in the bureaucratic world can be expressed with a substitution of a grasshopper (guo guo’er 蝈蝈儿 in Beijing dialect) for the cockscomb plant. In Beijing dialect, the name of the grasshopper sounds similar to the word for ‘high official (guan’er 官儿)’. A further variation of the visual pun replaces the rooster with a jar. The jar, which is guan’er 罐儿 in Beijing dialect, puns on the word for ‘high official (guan’er 官儿)’.
This saying can be abbreviated as ‘jia guan 加官’.
Related Pun Pictures:
Fig 1: porcelain dish, Chongzhen period (1628-44), Ming dynasty, courtesy of the British Museum, London
Fig 2: porcelain table screen, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), courtesy of the British Museum, London
Fig 3 & 4: saucer, h 2.1cm × d 10cm, c.1700 – c.1720, courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland
Fig 5: porcelain snuff-bottle with overglaze enamelled decoration, Daoguang period (1820-50), courtesy of Guimet Museum, Paris