Good-Luck “Beasts”

The Symbolism of Ornamental and Figurative Iconography on the Musical Instruments in the Skušek Collection


  • Klara Hrvatin UL, Filozofska fakulteta, Oddelek za azijske študije



The musical instruments in the Skušek Collection of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum display ornamental and figurative depictions, the symbolism of which is in many ways challenging to interpret. Many of them refer to good-luck beasts or ruishou (瑞獸), the most prominent being the representations of the mythological beings of qilin (麒麟) and dragon long (龍), whose symbolism infiltrated Chinese history, folklore, religion and art very early on. In this paper we will primarily pursue two objectives: firstly, we will analyse the motifs of figurative depictions in the examined musical instruments to see if an interpretation of these motifs within a broader context of Chinese culture could yield new findings about musical instruments. Secondly, we will study the characteristics of symbolism on musical instruments in the framework of the five categories of symbolism on musical instruments as defined by the musicologist Gen’ichi Tsuge. As an illustration of the main points of the presentation, we will principally use the musical instruments and artwork from the collection of Ivan Skušek Jr., the largest collection of Chinese artefacts in Slovenia, which is preserved at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum.


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How to Cite

Hrvatin, Klara. 2022. “Good-Luck ‘Beasts’: The Symbolism of Ornamental and Figurative Iconography on the Musical Instruments in the Skušek Collection”. Poligrafi 27 (107/108):45-69.