Home >> News

Things that crawl between lines and rhymes

Updated: 2018-08-07 14:51:15

( China Daily )

Share on

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Animals and plants associated with the virtues celebrated by these literary-minded people became the pattern for their clothing and home decoration, turning up on formal dresses and folding screens. Pine trees and chrysanthemum flowers are two examples, both standing for integrity in the face of adversity.

People visiting a royal palace or abode from the Qing time would invariably be greeted by a pair of stone lions at the gate. Ferocious with bulging eyes and flowing mane, the image of a lion has always been linked to kinghood. But here there is another layer of meaning.

In spoken Chinese, lion, or shi, has the same pronunciation as the word for teacher. In this case, think about the mentor of a prince or a future emperor - the sway he would have over the ruler and the glory in which he would bathe. That explains why the lions appeared not only at the doorstep but also, quite often, on the forehead band children wore to keep warm during winter times. High hopes parents always had on their children, with little knowledge that when political storms came, being an emperor's teacher hardly offered any protection.

Zhao Liya, a writer and historian known for her research on ancient Chinese accessories, has said this tendency to imbue image with meaning proved to be a double-edged sword on the evolution of decorative art during Qing China.

"On one hand, it popularized it, by tapping into the imagination of the secular society. On the other hand, it formalized and eventually fossilized it, limiting its vocabulary only to those from which good meanings could possibly be extracted. Same motifs were repeated over and over again while others were plainly ignored, pushing Chinese art further towards the decorative and the mundane."

But still people wished. Through all these symbolic images they built for themselves and their offspring a dream mansion where all the hopes, humble or high, could comfortably reside.

Previous 1 2 3 4
Editor's Pick
Hot words
Most Popular