Tag Archives: porcelain

Chinese astrology symbols through Asian art

Like many people in North America, my first experience with Chinese astrology took place when I was a kid in an American “Chinese” restaurant.  Probably someplace called Ming’s or Canton Buffet. You get the picture…overcooked vegetables, lumpy sauces loaded with MSG, special fried rice with everything except the kitchen sink, oh, and fortune cookies. The placemat was covered with pictures of animals below which were little paragraphs describing each one. I always read the one about the sheep first because it covered the year I was born. Now, I know that those descriptions were about as authentic as the dinner I was eating. Of course, I still am a sheep but now I know that I am a Wood Sheep. Actually, there are many more categories beyond elements that affect you, according to this system. My Malaysian friend has promised to do my whole chart and, at first glance, she said it was a good one… Except for the fact that symbols are animal shapes, there’s little difference between Western astrology and its Eastern counterpart. Chinese astrology is rooted in Taoism and it was perfected during the Zhou dynasty, starting in early 1000 BCE. It is based on yearly cycles, the moon and hourly periods, unlike Western astrology, which is based on the ecliptic. I still remember my prof in my Planetary Physics class at the University of Oregon in the mid-1970s deriding astrology as hooey because it didn’t take into consideration the precession of the earth’s axis. That was Western astrology and I don’t know what he would have said about this… For today’s post, I decided to show you a range of beautiful Asian art using Chinese astrological signs as a starting point, relying on Asian Art Mall’s descriptions, with quotations running below. Links for each animal will take you to a bigger description. The site states that in “an excavation in 1955 of a tomb dating back to the Tang Dynasty, a set of zodiac figurines were found, each carefully made from pottery.  Interestingly, these figurines were created with the body of a human but the head of each of the 12 animals.”

Rat (born in 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032, 2044)      — The Rat is “considered aggressive, suspicious, ambitious, quick to anger, power hungry, hot-tempered, critical, as well as generous, honest, charming, imaginative, and generous.


The rat statue is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac portrayed in the Kowloon Walled City Park in Kowloon City, Hong Kong. By HKCpedia (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Ox (born in 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033, 2045) — “Powerful, unyielding, stubborn, but also born leaders, great parents, typically successful, upright, inspiring, conservative, and easy-going.”

Chinese - Snuff Bottle with Ox Herder Returning Home - Walters 4972

Pilgrim shaped snuff bottle with a mountain landscape and a man riding a bullock (a young steer) on each side. Coral colored stopper and ivory spoon; between 1644 and 1911; porcelain with enameled glaze. Acquired by William T. or Henry Walters. By Walters Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons

Tiger (born in 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034, and 2046) – “Fighting animal, which is aggressive, unpredictable, emotional, yet charming, sensitive, courageous, and capable of giving immense love.  Somewhat of a risk taker, while also carefree.

Tuong gom ho thoi Canh Hung

A ceramic statue of tiger manufactured by artists from Bát Tràng village (Northern Vietnam) in the mid-18th century.By Binh Giang via Wikimedia Commons

Rabbit (born in 1915, 1927, 1939, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2003, 2036, and 2047) – “Affectionate, talented, pleasant, value security, enjoy tranquility, sometimes too sentimental and superficial, cautious, and generally successful in business.”

Puigaudeau, Ferdinand du - Chinese Schadows, the Rabbit

Chinese Shadows, the Rabbit; Ferdinand du Puigaudeau (1864-1930).By Jedudedek via Wikimedia Commons

Dragon (born in 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, and 2048) – “The Dragon is highly intelligent, gifted, unfaithful, loud, garish, popular, successful, enthusiastic, although also stubborn.”

Nine-Dragon Screen-1

Nine-Dragon Screen. By Shizhao (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Snake (born in 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2015, 2037, and 2049) – “People under this sign are clever, determined, passionate, intense, romantic, charming, and wise, but also tend to be vain and guided strongly by intuition.  The Snake will win money but should avoid being stingy.”


Nuwa, Chinese creator goddess; Myths and legends of China by Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner (1922). By Guss via Wikimedia Commons

Horse (born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038, and 2050) – “The Horse is friendly, intelligent, popular, cheerful, but also has an impatient, cunning, and selfish streak.”

CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit - pottery horse, detail 2

Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618 - 907) Excavated at Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, 1957 This yellow-glazed pottery horse includes a carefully sculpted saddle, which is decorated with leather straps and ornamental fastenings featuring eight-petalled flowers and apricot leaves. By Editor at Large via Wikimedia Commons

Sheep (born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039, and 2051) – “Sheep are creative, passionate, artistic, elegant, honest, and warmhearted, but also timid, disorganized, pessimistic, and vulnerable.”

3 sheep Asian Art Museum SF B60J397

Three sheep, white jade, approx. 1900-11, Qing Dynasty. On display at the Asian Art Musem of San Francisco. By BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons

Monkey (born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040, and 2052) – “Very intelligent, clever, inventive, and entertaining, the Monkey can also be discouraged easily and live dangerously.  Often distrustful of other people, they will guard against many situations.”

Sun Wukong at Beijing opera - Journey to the West

Chinese monkey king, Sun Wukong at Beijing opera - "Journey to the West." By d'n'c from Beijing (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons

Rooster (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041, and 2053)        – “The Rooster is hardworking, courageous, eager for more knowledge, strong decision-makers, very skilled, and great with details.  However, the Rooster is also arrogant, shrewd, eccentric, and sometimes, reckless”

CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit - black glazed jug with rooster head

Black glazed jug with a rooster head; Eastern Jin Dynasty (A.D. 317 - 420); Excavated at Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, 1969. Used for storing wine or water, string or sinew was tied through the two small round holders at the shoulder of this jug. The rooster head and shape of the jug appeared during the Jin Dynasty. By Editor at Large via Wikimedia Commons

Dog (born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042, and 2054) – “People born under the Dog are honest, quiet, generous, intelligent, and very loyal while also being a bit stubborn.  They tend to worry about everything, have a sharp tongue, and like to place fault on others.

Green-glazed pottery dog, Eastern Han Dynasty, 25-220 A.D. Palace Museum (Beijing, China). By Rosemania via Wikimedia Commons

Pig (1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2020, 2031, and 2043) – “Very honest, sincere, tolerant, kind, and affectionate, the Pig is also short tempered and impulsive.  Since people under this sign are eager for knowledge, they tend to be successful.

Pig-shaped pottery gui (vessel) fro the Dawenkou Culture (c. 4200-2500 BC). Unearthed at Sanlihe, Jiaoxian, Shandong Province, 1974. By BabelStone via Wikimedia Commons

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A beautiful centrepiece of porcelain flowers

Centro de flores (Porcelana Buen Retiro, MAN 1982-85-5) 02

Porcelain flower centerpiece, by Bautista family; Buen Retiro Royal Porcelain Factory, Madrid; National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Photo by Luis García via Wikimedia Commons

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Happy St. Paddy’s! Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

A peek at what is happening in Ireland from Pottery Ireland

Inishmuck Lough, County Cavan, Ireland - geograph.org.uk - 560300

Inishmuck Lough, County Cavan, Ireland One of County Cavan's many beautiful lochs on the Erne river system.. By Adam Simpson via Wikimedia Commons

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Traditional European Christmas Markets

Wien Rathaus Christkindlmarkt Dez2006B

Vienna's Christkindlmarkt in the market square in front of City Hall

These days, traditional European-style Christmas markets are held worldwide and seem to be catching on. Juried markets and rented booths make for the finest wares made by the finest artisans. In my own locale, the German Christmas Market in Vancouver, BC, has been running for several years and, this year, Toronto is having its 2nd annual event, according to MarketWatch. From December 2-18, more than 100,000 people will attend Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market. Set in the Distillery Historic District, the “event recreates the magic of traditional European Christmas markets that began in the early 1400s.”

 Many of those markets have had a continuous following since that time and wonderful ones can be found in some of Europe’s most beautiful cities.  I want to write more than travelogue style, though, since you’ll want to know what it is like for the artisans who sell. According to Shirley O’Bryan Smith in an AP story, vendors in Budapest, pay the equivalent of $3,500 (US) to rent space at the city’s main market, but they usually make about $14,000 (US), too. “The merchandise is quite good. Sellers are judged by experts representing craftsmen and folk artists, and only those of high skill are allowed to set up shop,” she said. Vienna’s  famous Christkindlmarkt is set in front of the Rathaus, or City Hall and will probably attract a couple of million visitors this season. O’Bryan Smith reports that the market in Salzburg, Mozart’s hometown, includes many musical presentations and that the one in Bratislava, Slovakia, often features pottery and decorations in the shape of fish because that is their traditional dish at Christmas. I think the location of a Christmas market must have great bearing on the atmosphere. The market in Cologne, Germany, must be breathtakingly beautiful near the cathedral and there are others: the Home of the Gnomes in the Old Town, the Angels Market, the Fairytale Christmas Market, the Floating Market on the MS Wappen von Köln, the Christmas Market at Stadtgarten, and the new Maritime Christmas Market on the Rhine River. It sounds absolutely incredible!

Christmas Market in Strasbourg, France

Doug Oster reported on the Christmas markets of Paris, saying they “have their roots in the Alsace region of France, which borders Germany and has been part of that country off and on throughout history. The markets themselves stretch back to the 14th century.” As with other European centres, Parisian markets are located throughout the city and are called marché de Noël. According to a TravelPod blogger, there are 10 good markets in the city; clickhere to see the list. Of note is the entry about La Maison du Limousin, which can be found along the Champs-Elysees. It caters to foodies and features, in part, Limoges porcelain. Changing tack, O’Bryan Smith brought up an interesting point about whether

Attendees can warm themselves by the fire at Schwimmender Christkindlmarkts

Europe’s financial crisis and its affected economies will cause a downturn in attendance and buying habits. Slovakian economist Vladimir Vano had a different take on the situation, however, and one that should interest us. He said that the markets aren’t just for buying and selling, according to O’Bryan Smith, but that they are “really an old version of modern online social networks — a place to connect.” Vano continued, saying, “In times of trouble…people want that connection to be more personal.” O’Bryan Smith wrote, “If you add in the nostalgic spirit of the holidays, you have what he calls ‘behavior economics,’ and that could keep the Christmas markets strong this year.” (I am so glad to hear it because the people who display their wares must have been working on them for a good part of the year, if not all year.) In addition to the actual markets, local economies are heavily involved and the Christmas markets support a major tourist industry. This MarketWatch article provides an interesting behind the scenes glimpse into the hospitality machinery for British tourists who are interested in spending holiday time at these markets. For more information about other markets held throughout Europe, click here. To read more about the Christmas market that was voted the most beautiful in Europe, click here. To be in Europe at Christmas-time! I can’t imagine anything more romantic or lovely. However, we do have a charming alternative in Leavenworth, Washington, which is fashioned after a Bavarian village. I do so hope my girlfriends and I can make it down there this winter!

Christkindlmarkt fare, Salzburg, Austra


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