Other Symbolical Devices – Chinese Porcelain

Plate C, fig. 17. A seal character (Show), longevity, arranged in an ornamental form. This character is represented in no less than one hundred different ways, and often occurs on porcelain. That engraved is from a saucer, where it is surrounded by five bats.

Plate C, fig. 18. A bat. This animal is constantly represented on Chinese works of art, and the cause of its presence is a singular one. Though written with a different character, the name of the bat, Fuh, has exactly the same sound as Fuh, happiness, and it is, therefore, very commonly used as a synonym for the latter. The figure is taken from a saucer on which there are five bats. These five bats symbolize the five blessings or happinesses, viz. 1. Longevity, 2. Riches, 3. Peacefulness, 4. Love of virtue, 5. A happy death.

Plate C, fig. 19. The famous set of eight trigrams, known as the Pa-kwa. They consist of combinations of broken and entire lines, each differently placed. The entire lines represent the male, strong or celestial element in nature, and the broken, the female, weak or terrestrial. Each group has its own name, and even the dishes at a feast are arranged in accordance with these diagrams. They are said to have been first published by Fuh-he, the legendary founder of the Chinese polity, who is stated to have lived B. C. 2852 to 2738, and to whom they were revealed by a dragon-horse. By them the Chinese philosophers attempted to explain all the secrets of nature and of being. The diagram here given is the oldest arrangement, in which they are supposed to be in connection with the points of the compass, the north and south being, however, reversed, according to the Chinese system.

The circular figure in the centre is the mystical device, the Yang and Yin, the male and female elements of nature. This device is frequently employed as an ornament in China.