Porcelain Urns with Mythical Beasts, Qing Dynasty, during the reign of Kangxi, 1622-1723, 1'-6" high, 12" wide at the widest point
On the mantel of the north fireplace are a pair of urns with lids, which date from the Qing Dynasty, during the reign of Kangxi (1622-1723) . A colorful variation of the mythical beast qilin dominates the central medallions, front and back. Considered to be the Chinese counterpart to the western unicorn (generally shown with one horn - unlike the two-horned creatures on these urns), qilin were benevolent beasts, who heralded longevity, prosperity, and married bliss. It is said that qilin were seen at the time of Confucius' birth.
The beast is also a popular emblem on art pieces intended for scholars. Other symbols present on the necks of urns also note they were meant for scholars: scrolls, books, chess boards, and zithers. The ribbon tied around each symbol conveys its sanctity and significance, much the way the halo does in western art. A variety of butterflies, another symbol for longevity, fills the pale yellow background.
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