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Imbued with Emotion - Decoration Patterns of Classical Furniture
Furniture from Ming and Qing Dynasties, especially the Qing-style furniture, has attached particular importance to the application of decoration as the way of embodying its rich cultural connotations. That is why the decoration of the furniture is in conformity with the popular gorgeous and sumptuous styles advocated in Qing Dynasty. In terms of the decorative patterns, except the geometric designs, the furniture from Ming and Qing dynasties tend to use plants, animals, characters and other historical stories and folk tales to express emotions such as devotion, expectation, pursuit and blessing.
The decoration of the classic furniture embodies different meanings and implications mainly from the following four aspects.
The first one is to use different kinds of flowers, grasses or other plants as the decoration, comparing their special traits to the moralities and attributes of people. For example, the lotus flower stands for purity and nobility, while the peony symbolizes the riches and honor, daffodil for elegance, chrysanthemum for longevity as well as the integrity with great fortitude, and the Chinese flowering crabapple is compared to those gentlemen of honor or the talented and good-looking women. The megranate and grape with many seeds embody people’s wishes to have more sons or grandsons with more blessings. Besides, the bamboo and the pine are regarded as the best embodiment of the attribute of nobleness and integrity with great fortitude of people.
The second one is to use characters to express people’s pursuit of auspiciousness, longevity, riches and honor and other wonderful dreams such as the “福(Blessing or good fortune)” design, “萬(ten thousand)”design, “喜(happiness)”design and “寿(longevity)” design are themselves the embodiment of people’s wishes to have more blessings and enjoy happiness. The “萬” design for example has integrated the nice implication of “being happy and auspicious for good” mentioned in Buddhism and is favored by emperors, generals and ministers of state as well as the ordinary people.
The third one is to use different animals or gods or goddesses from folk tales as the allegories for auspiciousness, elegance and nobility. For example, paintings with dragon and phoenix together mean that dragon and phoenix, symbolizing the love between men and women, would bring about auspice and prosperity, and there is also “two dragons play with a pearl. Crane is an animal with an auspicious sign for longevity and is often painted flying in the cloud in heaven profoundly affected by the Taoism culture. Silurid and fish used together means a better-off life due to their partial tones with “sustainable abundance” in Chinese language. Other animals in the 12 symbolic animals associated with a 12-year cycle are used in the decoration of furniture as well and have become the important pattern design in the classic furniture culture.
The fourth one is to use different characters to express people’s wishes and expectations. The most commonly-used images or patterns are those of receiving official promotion, the 100 children at play, carving of fisherman, woodcutter, farmer and literator and so on. The implications of those auspicious patterns and designs are all with profound accumulation of ancient culture.
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