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Chinese blue and white jar, Kangxi (1662-1722), decorated in underglaze cobalt blue with a pair of deer roaming a cliffy landscape amongst pine and swirling clouds with two cranes in flight overhead, the neck with a narrow hatch-pattern band and the base with double circle
The decoration of this jar is rich in the symbolism of longevity, which is one of the central themes of Daoist teaching. According to Daoist belief, deer are the only animal able to find and eat lingzhi, the fungi of immortality. As ‘deer’ in Chinese (‘lu’) is homophonous with the term for an official’s salary, the animal can also be a symbol of wealth. The motif of pine, evergreen and long-living, is often paired with crane, which are in turn associated with Shoulao, the god of longevity. The immortal crane (xian he) is said to live for thousands of years and act as messenger between earth and the heavenly realms where the Daoist deities reside. The incorporation of auspicious natural imagery into artistic design was particularly popular during the late Ming and Qing as according to Daoist belief, immortality could only be achieved through living in harmony with the natural world and connecting with the universal order underpinning all things. The potent combination of longevity motifs within this design would have made the jar an appropriate gift or furnishing for a retirement or birthday event