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Oriental China - Kwan-Yin. Ming

( Originally Published 1911 )

This example is very rare, inasmuch as the two attendants form a part of the actual figure, and this, if not unique, is exceptionally rare. The robe in this instance is decorated with the 100 Shows or Cheous (emblems of longevity) in black on an apple-green ground ; the cape has a small floral design in black on aubergine with green border; the head-dress is of brilliant green with lotus flowers in aubergine, yellow, blue, and black ; the head, neck, and hands in biscuit. The small figure on the knee is in a yellow robe, relieved with a small design in black; the attendant on the right of the figure has an aubergine robe with a collar in blue; the head-dress and peach which she carries in her hand are in black; the attendant on the left has garments with a small black design on a green ground ; the upper portion of the body is in biscuit, except the hair, which is fashioned in a knob at the back and is enamelled black. The pedestal has in the centre panel a reserve containing a sacred carp arising from the waves ; this is enamelled in black, yellow, aubergine, and green, on a white ground, and is surrounded with a margin of blue. The front side panels have Joo-e-heads, from which ribbons are depending, in green, black, and yellow, on white ground. The two back panels have chrysanthemums and leaves in aubergine, green, and black, on a white ground.


So many references are made to the goddess Kwan-Yin, and she is represented in such a number of statuettes, that no collection of Chinese porcelain would be complete without her. Sometimes she is seated, at others she is standing. Often she is found in white of various tints, but the finest specimens are painted with coloured enamels. Here we have a most beautiful and valuable example in enamel colours of a seated figure of Kwan-Yin. The robe is of pale green relieved with a formal floral design in aubergine, yellow, and black. The neck is adorned with a necklet of beads in yellow enamel. The head-dress is of rich apple-green decorated with a swastika in yellow and with Cheou characters in black. There are also medallions, each containing a hawthorn leaf in green on an aubergine and black ground. The hair is of black enamel; face, neck, hands, and sceptre in biscuit. The figure is supported on an oblong pedestal, which is surmounted by an upturned lotus flower; the leaves of this are in pale green and aubergine. The front is represented as a sunk panel, on which is a very early diaper design in yellow, green, aubergine, and black. The four corners are incised. The sides of the pedestal are decorated with branches of hawthorn blossoms in green, black, and aubergine, on a white ground, whilst on the back is a river scene with junk, rock, trees, &c., in yellow, green, and black, unglazed on a white ground. Ming period.


The third illustration of this goddess—the queen of heaven—shows her again in connection with the lotus, the emblem of purity, also the symbol of creative power. The fish, too, is often associated with her and with the gods. There was a noted carp which lived at the bottom of Buddha's lotus pond, but generally the carp is an emblem of longevity, and figures of fish are amongst the charms which frighten away bad demons. The flowers which rise from behind the nimbus or halo round the head of the goddess is the magnolia, the emblem of sweetness and beauty, which, like the prunus, shows its full blossom before the leaves appear. The illustration is the model of a shrine, the back representing a rock in rich aubergine; this is relieved with bamboo plants in green. In the centre, on an upturned lotus flower, is a seated figure of Kwan-Yin in robes of green and yellow ; the other portions of her body in biscuit, as are also the leaves of the lotus flower ; under these is a giant leaf supporting the whole; on either side of the Kwan-Yin are two male attendants, the one standing on a lotus flower, the other on a leaf; these figures are in biscuit relieved with green enamel. Under the figure of the goddess is a carp in yellow enamel rising from the waves, which are in green, and immediately in front is a sacred vessel in green enamel on an aubergine base.

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