More Chinese symbolism

September 30, 2007

Here’s what I learned at the Musée Canadien des Civilisations across the river when earlier this month I visited the current exhibition there, Trésors de la Chine.

A mountain symbolises stability and tranquility.
Surging waves and mountains in a picture stand for riches and a long life.
The peony is the king of flowers and a symbol of spring, beauty and honour.
Butterflies = joy.
Plum blossoms represent purity, longevity and endurance. (“Plum vases” in ancient China, so called because they could hold a single branch of plum blossom, were also used as decanters for wine and as burial articles in tombs.)
A gourd stands for a high salary, or fertility.
Pomegranates are a token of numerous male offspring.
The sight of a day lily will help people to forget their sorrows, perhaps because these flowers can be “consumed” (as the exhibition notes put it) as an anti-depressant.
The Chinese word for “bats” is a pun on “fu”, meaning good fortune, so many Chinese artifacts feature flying bats.
The image of an egret and a lotus conveyed the wish for success in passing exams and in getting promotion.

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