Miniature Ceramic Pomegranate Offering,
Item No. 19234
19th - 20th Century, N/A, China
3" x 0" x 0"
( 7.62 x 0 x 0 cm)
(H x W x D)
Offerings of sweets, fruits, florals and currency are routinely placed in front of Buddhist or Taoist images in reverence to deities and in front of ancestor figures as homage to their spirits. This miniature ceramic image, representing stacked pomegranates is used instead of real fruit because of considerations of convenience and cost.
The pomegranate is a "Buddhist sign, the fruit being suppposed to represent the essence of the favorable influence believed to exist in the pomegranate tree, a twig of which is sometimes used instead of willow for sprinkling water. When peaches are not attainable, even the Taoists would make use of pomegranates in their place at Temple functions." (Gulland, Chinese Porcelain, Vol.I, p. 108 as quoted in Williams p.333).
The Chinese characters for shi-liu (pomegranate) mean "stone willow." The fruit was brought to China from the Near East in the 2nd century BC where it was considered, as in China, a symbol of fertility, as it is full of seeds (zi) and, therefore, by the rules of homonymic transfer, full of children (zi). It,along with the peach and the finger-lemon, is one of the "three fortunate fruits" which symbolize abundance and plenty. A half open pomegranate is a popular wedding present. He inscription "liu kai bai-zi," menaing the pomegranate opens means a hundred seeds or a hundred sons a, in Chinese, the word zi can mean both seed or son.
Wolfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbolsim Chinese Life and Thought, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD, 1998.
C.A.S. Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives, New York, Dover Publications Inc.,1976.