- Museum number
Porcelain figure, with detached stand with underglaze blue decoration. Shoulao, the stellar god of longevity. He perches on the back of a kneeling deer, rests one hand on the deer's head and holds a 'ruyi' sceptre or magic wand in the other. He is identified by his characteristic bald phallic cranium, elongated earlobes and long beard. He is dressed in robes of office and his shoulders are ornamented with roundels containing phoenix among clouds. Similar roundels with cranes decorate the knees and a rank badge showing a qilin above waves is attached to the chest. The sleeve edges are decorated with a flower and cross design reserved in white on a blue ground and the main robe with key-fret edging, fastened with a bow. Shou Xing's slippers are modelled as 'ruyi' heads. A bell collar is tied around the deer's neck and its pelt is covered with a pattern of delicate flower heads. Two holes in the porcelain are positioned where the deer's antlers would be and there are further openings in Shou Xing's right ear and mouth. The figure is hollow and has cracked horizontally along the mould line during firing. It also has a central hole in the base which can be connected to the central hole in the stand. The stand is kidney-bean-shaped with a raised rim and a circular hole in the top. It is hollow and through the large oval opening in the base can be seen an internal strut support on either side. The top and base are unglazed except for the edge of the base which is heavily scored into the clay. The sides are glazed and decorated in underglaze blue at the front with stylized pine and rocks flanked by bamboo and rocks with a border of waves above. It is possible that a supporting stick was once threaded through the holes in the top and base.
- Production date
- 1573-1620 (circa)
Height: 43 centimetres (with stand)
Height: 34 centimetres (without stand)
Width: 18 centimetres
Depth: 10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Harrison-Hall 2001:
Images of such 'xian' or immortals became popular from the Middle Ming period, as printed dramas and short stories, which illustrated the miraculous powers of such gods, became more widely available. Similar statues were also cast in bronze or carved in ivory or hard stones. There are no signs that this figure was used as an incense burner as was once suggested. It is possible that the figure was made for a domestic altar or shrine. It could also have been made as a gift or ornament which could bring good luck to the recipient. Similar figures of Shoulao have been excavated from Wanli period tombs, such as two images unearthed from the tombs of the family of Xiang Yuanbian (1525-91) outside Jiaxing city, Zhejiang province. When sold to Sir Augustus Wollaston ranks, the figure was in a box inscribed in Chinese 'Wan-chow [sic] ware'. Franks deduced that it had been made in Wan-chow (Wanzhou) prefecture in Che-kiang (Zhejiang) province. However, the porcelain and decoration are similar to products of the late Wanli period, made at Jingdezhen.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2007 8 Feb-5 Aug, BM Gallery 91, 'Gods, Guardians and Immortals: Chinese Religious Paintings'
- Registration number