Antique Weight of Stone Crab on a Melon
Item No. 16385
19th Century, N/A, China
4" x 0" x 0"
( 10.16 x 0 x 0 cm)
(H x W x D)
Stone pieces like this were used for two purposes that we know of: either as a mat weight to hold down mats so they would not blow in the wind or as agricutlural measures, i.e., for weight.
According to Terese Tse Bartholomew, the crab, is a symbol for success in passing the civil services examination and is a pun for harmony. The crabs shell is seen as similar to armor which also means first, and refers to first place in the palace examination. A single crab reflects the idiomatic expression yijia yiming which means the “only name holding first place.” Thus having a crab on a household item is meant to bestow good wishes for the family’s sons in competing for civil exams, which can provide a good life for a good life for anyone who successfully passes them and secures a position in the government. (p. 88)
This fits well with the symbolism of the melon, as the fruit has many seeds which is symbolic of a wish for many sons. The two symbols together, therefore, is a wish for many sons who will be sucessful on their civil examinations and provide for the wealth, health and prosperity (fu) of the family.
Terese Tse Bartholomew, “Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art,” Hong Kong, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2006.
Wolfram Eberhard, “A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols; Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought,” London, Routledge, 1998.