Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art

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Asian Art Museum Foundation
Date Published:
approx 300 full-color illustrations and color photographs
Number of Pages:
Trim Size:
9 X 12

With clear, readable explanations, this Chinese art history book provides a visual insight into the very rich history of Chinese sybbolism.

Can decorative objects increase one's wealth, happiness, or longevity? Traditionally, many Chinese have believed that they could—provided they include the appropriate auspicious symbols. In Hidden meanings in Chinese Art Asian Art Museum Curator Terese Tse Bartholomew, culminating decades of research, has provided a thorough guide to such symbols.

Auspicious symbols in Chinese art are often in the form of rebuses—visual puns. Because many words in Chinese share the same pronunciation, there is a wealth of opportunities for such punning, and over the centuries many rebuses have developed established meanings.

Should one give a clock as a gift? Certainly not! "To give a clock" songzhong is a pun for "a last farewell," in other words, for attending a person who is on the edge o death. Why is a pot of philodendrons an appropriate gift for someone opening a new store or restaurant? In America the philodendron serves as a substitute for a Chinese plant named wannianqing, or "ten thousand years green." Such a gift expresses the wish that the business will flourish for ten thousand years.

Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art brings a systematic approach to the cataloguing of such hidden meanings. Richly illustrated with photos of art objects and with many original illustrations by the author, and enhanced with extensive bilingual indexes and other supporting materials, this book is an essential reference for anyone interested in exploring Chinese art and culture.

About the Author:
Terese Tse Bartholomew is Curator of Himalayan Art and Chinese Decorative Art at the Asian Art Museum