A blue and white porcelain 'Buddhist emblems' snuff bottle
Colourless glaze on cobalt on porcelain; with a slightly convex lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding, convex footrim; painted under the glaze with a similar oval panel on each main side of the Eight Buddhist Emblems, the panels surrounded by a continuous design of interlinked sauvastikas and swastikas (wan symbols), the neck with a band of formalized lingzhi and dots; the lip with three formalized bats facing inwards towards the mouth; the foot inscribed in regular script Jingchun yuan zhi ('Made for the Garden of Mirrored Spring'); the lip, inner neck, and interior glazed Jingdezhen, 18211850 Height: 5.68 cm Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.64 cm Stopper: glass, carved with a coiled chi dragon; glass collar
Condition: Several areas of glaze nibbling to the outer lip area and surface abrasions all over from use; two small burst glaze bubbles, part of the original firing process
Provenance: John Ault, June 2005 Robert Kleiner, June 2005
Published: Treasury 6, no. 1289
This is the only recorded snuff bottle bearing the name of this garden, but people who have recently visited the campus of Peking University may recognize it as the site of the newly opened Beijing International Centre for Mathematical Research. The garden first acquired the name on this snuff bottle in 1802, when it was given to the Jiaqing emperor's fourth daughter. The western part of the garden was given to his fifth son about the same time; it was named Minghe yuan (Garden of the Crying Crane) and was much larger. In 1896, the Jingchun yuan was folded into the larger garden, but the overall site fell into ruins until after 1949. (See Hou, Wang, and Gallagher 2008, pp. 57 74, for a detailed account.)
Although the design is the common Eight Buddhist Emblems, consisting of the wheel of the Law, conch shell, umbrella, canopy, lotus, jar, fish, and eternal knot, their arrangement is unique and very clever. The fish have been doubled, as so often in Chinese depictions, and some of the others are relatively obvious, such as the eternal knot, the wheel of the law, and the canopy. Others are not so obvious. The umbrella and canopy have been combined to give the umbrella a long skirt, and the conch shell is its finial. The whole design has the shape of a vase, the two fish forming its sides, the wheel its center, the canopy its neck, the umbrella its lid, and the conch the knob on the lid, while the base consists of a series of lotus-petal tips. The two flowers on either side of the neck may also be intended to be read as lotus flowers. The continuous design of fylfots or wan symbols in which the panels are set adds a wish for longevity because of its continuous, unending nature, but also because it stands for the character meaning ten thousand (wan). The lingzhi around the neck, formalized as ruyi heads, symbolize wish fulfilment (as ever) and the three bats (fu), happiness.