May you have three successive promotions unexpectedly!

平升三级

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The main figure in the scene is a dignitary, often gripping a hu (笏) tablet in his hands, which an official uses to take notes when he has audience with the emperor in court. He is usually sheltered by page boys erecting some fans or a parasol or guarded by a soldier holding a weapon with an iron melon on the top. Facing the dignitary is an attendant presenting a vase containing three miniature ji (戟) halberds to him. Sometimes there is a tray underneath the vase. The Chinese character for ‘vase’ is 瓶 ping, which is a pun on 平 ping for ‘unexpectedly’ or ‘surprisingly’. The character for the halberd is 戟 ji, which puns on 级 ji for ‘grade or rank’ and three halberds stand for ‘three ranks’. Put together, the design is used to express the message “May you have three successive promotions unexpectedly” (平升三级 ping sheng san ji).

Related Pun Pictures:

May you have three promotions continuously! 连升三级

May you be created a peer and earn a handsome official income 爵禄封侯

Acknowledgement:

Fig 1-3: porcelain vases with underglaze blue decoration, Chongzhen period (1627-44), courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Holland

Fig 4: blue-and-white porcelain bottle, Tianqi (1621-27) or Chongzhen (1628-44) period, courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fig 5: porcelain vase with underglaze blue decoration, Chongzhen period (1627-44), courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada

Fig 6-7: porcelain vase with underglaze decoration, Chongzhen period (1627- 44), courtesy of the British Museum

Fig 8: porcelain lidded jar with underglaze blue decoration, Chongzhen (1627-44), courtesy of The Princessehof Ceramics Museum

Fig 9: porcelain mug with underglaze blue decoration, Chongzhen (1627-44), courtesy of The Princessehof Ceramics Museum

Fig 10: porcelain brush holder with underglaze blue decoration (detail), Chongzhen period (1627-44), courtesy of the Butler Collection

Fig 11: porcelain vase with underglaze blue decoration, Shunzhi period (1644-61), courtesy of Palace Museum, Beijing

Fig 12-13: porcelain vase with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig 14: porcelain vase with underglaze blue and overglaze enamelled decoration, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art

Fig 15: underglaze-blue porcelain snuff-bottle, 19th century, courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei

Fig 16: illustration, Kisshō zuan kaidai : Shina fuzoku no ichi kenkyū by Nobuchika, Nozaki, Pl. 130, Tenjin: Chn̄goku Dosan Kōshi 1928

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