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16385

Antique Weight of Stone Crab on a Melon
Item No. 16385

19th Century, N/A, China
Stone
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.

Sources:

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.

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