Chinese Symbolism in Traditional Arts and Crafts

This Chinese symbolism has permeated all traditional arts and crafts, and even society to a degree that is hardly found in the west.


So what is this symbolism?

For example, think of red roses or doves. In the western society these are associated with certain meanings... they are symbols for things that are dear to us. They many people they represent love, and peace and harmony, respectively.
This symbolism is much deeper rooted in China's culture and finds more extensive use in its traditional society than in the west. It has found its ways into all aspects of life, including traditional crafts, art, and architecture.


A good example of positive Chinese symbolism in crafts is the bat. While this creature of the night hardly can be said to have any fortunate, luck promising linking in the western mind, in China it is considered a very auspicious animal.
The reason is that the name of the bat, "Bian-Fu", or rather the sound or its pronunciation, is associated with the character Fu, which has the meaning of "good fortune, happiness, luck".
Please see the tables below for examples on symbolism used in traditional subjects in crafts, including porcelain painting, and the symbolism they may represent.



Auspicious Sounding Things:

Quail

auspicious sounding name*1

歲 歲平(安)

Vase

auspicious sounding name

(平) 安納福

Fish

auspicious sounding name

富 裕有(餘)

Bee

auspicious sounding name

(豐) 足剩餘

Bat

auspicious sounding name

五(福) 臨門

Deer

auspicious sounding name

高 官厚祿

Streams, clouds, sun,
moon, stars, wind,
thunder, flash

ethereal objects

Zodiac signs

see Zodiac

Auspicious characters

fu, lu, shou, xi, wan

福, 祿, 壽, 囍, 萬

*1 object name sounds similar to character(s) with auspicious meaning
*2 Yuanbao (a type of currency in the form of an ingot)




Objects Having An Auspicious Meaning:

ObjectMeaning
Turtle, tortoise Longevity
Magpie Joy
Yuanbao*2, coins Wealth
Mandarin ducks Affectionate, loving
Peony Wealth and honor
Pomegranate Much offspring
Bamboo Humble, modest
Goat Filial piety


Spiritual and Mythological Beings:

Spiritual beings Tree spirits, dragon, phoenix, flower and animal spirits, etc.
Mythological beings Deities, immortals, phantoms, ghosts, sea and river gods, thunder god, wind aunt, etc.



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