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Stoneware Green Glazed Wine Vessel
Item No. 19445A

19th Century, N/A, China
18" x 0" x 0"
( 45.72 x 0 x 0 cm)
(H x W x D)

This lidded wine and herbal vessel with green and turquoise glaze was used to prepare and store serums of wine and herbs. The “wines” and liquid herbal mixtures usually carried in such vessels were used both for ritual cleansing and for medicinal purposes. Such elixirs were commonly used in the Taoist tradition, and were associated with prolonging life and assuring immortality.

The vessel is covered with an apple green and turquoise glaze with an iridescent quality. It is masterfully and artistically decorated with Taoist iconographic symbols: an upside down dragon head as the spout, tao tieh masks with rings in their mouths on their sides , a rectangle with raised border and decorations on the front with calligraphic inscriptions and an arched handle.

Chinese lung or dragons are very auspicious in feng shui. The Chinese lung, or dragon, is a good natured, benign and benevolent being that inhabits both the heavens and the oceans, and, living in both places, the dragon is able to control the rains. The lung is the very essence of vitality, and represents strength and energy (chi). This ability and power accounts for the reverence in which the dragon was held by early Chinese agricultural populations and explains why it is commonly used as a decorative motif on carvings, textiles, paintings, and Buddhist artifacts. It symbolizes power, excellence, valiancy, perseverance, divinity and transformation; it is able to overcome obstacles until it achieves success; and it is thought of as a fierce protective figure because of its tenacity. Any spot were a lung dwells is blessed with peace and fortune. Thus, having a representation of a lung on this vessel assured that the mixtures in the vessel would bring power, vitality, and protection to those who drank them.

Tao tieh in Chinese is the name of a mythical creature widely used as a decorative element on bronzes beginning in the Shang Dynasty (from 1800 B.C. through about 1000 B.C.). The Shang were especially skilled in casting beautiful ritual vessels which were elaborately and aesthetically decorated, often with a particular motif on two sides called the tao tieh, believed by some to have evolved from the image of a shaman’s mask. This sophisticated design originally consisted of a double image of a horned mask and back-to-back dragons. The creature possessed the head of a human, the body of a sheep or cow, the horn of a goat, eyes on the side of his chest, and a tiger's teeth. The Chinese used this design as a charm against devil-like beings and in the belief that it would ward off evil-minded people from their property. By placing tao tieh on these vessels, the makers of the drinks inside placed visual images that would convince people of the effectiveness of the potions inside.

Although massive in shape, the artistic rendering of this jar imbue it with a delicate and graceful and elegant presence.

Nancy Zeng Berliner, Chinese Folk Art, Boston, Little, Brown and Company,
Hugo Munsterberg, Chinese and Japanese Art. New York, Hacker Art Books, 1981
C.A.S. Williams, Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, New Jersey, Castle Books, 1974.

Web Sources:
www.Chinese, 1998. Du Fwiboa, Dragon and Phoenix, Xindeco Business Information Company,, The Dragon in Chinese Culture, A First Step in Understanding Buddhism, Dragons and Winged Serpents, China Dragons

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