Liu Hai teases the golden toad
Auspicious motifs on the wooden mirror frame from the Skušek Collection
Keywords:Liu Hai, Shouxing, qilin, auspicious motifs, wooden mirror frame, Ivan Skušek Jr., pine, bamboo, plum, lion, magpie
This paper analyses auspicious motifs on the wooden mirror frame from the Skušek Collection, housed in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. The auspicious patterns are discussed in the broader context of Chinese cultural and linguistic structures, which in the visual representation of combined plant, animal, and figure motifs, leads to innumerable combinations of rebuses and puns with homonyms based on Chinese historical, literary, philosophical, religious, and mythological tradition. In this way, auspicious motifs developed into a standard decorative scheme, providing a rich source for both literati and artisans, and were exported to neighbouring countries and the West. They are particularly widespread on objects for daily use given as tokens of good wishes for happiness, prosperity, wealth, longevity and progeny, which are also meant to ensure their fulfilment. This can be seen on the wooden mirror frame purchased in Beijing between 1914 and 1920 by naval officer Ivan Skušek Jr. In the first part of the paper, an iconographic analysis of the motifs is made, while in the second part, the messages contained in the visual symbolic codes are analysed in more detail, taking into account the arrangement of the motifs in the completed narrative and the way in which these images are interpreted.
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