Stylized Shou Character
On View In:
Gallery 217
Artist:   Artist Unknown  
Title:   Stylized Shou Character  
Date:   c. 1800  
Medium:   Steamed bamboo  
Dimensions:   8 3/8 x 6 3/4 x 5 1/2 in. (21.27 x 17.15 x 13.97 cm)  
Credit Line:   Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton  
Location:   Gallery 217  

Beginning in the late Ming dynasty, the Chinese character for longevity, pronounced shou, became a common auspicious symbol. It was written as a large single character on hanging scrolls, embroidered on clothing, painted on porcelain, and even decorated birthday presents. To the literati, advanced age meant wisdom, accomplishment, refined sensibilities, determination, and endurance. This rather bizarre object, made for the scholar's table from a convoluted piece of bamboo, approximates the shape of the shou character.

The same stylized character appears at the center of the small dish shown here. Dated by inscription to the Chia Ching era (1522-66), this early example of overglaze enamel depicts the shou character as a flowering peach tree. Peaches were a standard Taoist motif for long life, so the saucer emphasizes longevity in two ways.

Object Description  
Classification:   Woodwork  
Physical Description:   character 'shou' as written in grass script as one continuous stroke of a brush  
Creation Place:   Asia, China, , ,  
Accession #:   96.97.15  
Owner:   The Minneapolis Institute of Arts