Archives for posts with tag: pica pica

P1040630b

W380xH520mm, China

Bird and the Plum Blossom,
a traditional and popular composition for Chinese crafts.

A play on the phase 喜上眉梢 (xi shang mei shao), one is so happy that joy is expressed when in the eye brow.  You might wonder what a facial express has to do with plum blossom and bird.  The bird is 喜鵲 pica pica (magpie), its climbing on the plum branch 喜上梅梢 (xi shang mei que) has the same pronunciation has this uncontrollable joy.

Bird and Plum Blossom theme with
pearl inlay craft – pearl box,
pottery pattern – plum & bird plate,
ceramic figurines – pottery birds,
wood carving – birds in plum blossom

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pottery birdsW200xD150xH270mm, China

A delicate figurine of two pica pica (magpie) on a blossoming plum tree.  The subject, a symbol of blessing, is often seen in painting, pottery and carvings; for the Chinese, the pica pica is bird of luck while the plum tree signified happiness, joy, peace, longevity and success.   Here is a story about this lucky bird, in the Tong dynasty there was a man named Li Jing Yi.  Outside Li’s house there was a pica pica nest on a tree, everyday he would feed the bird, after a while the bounding between the bird and Li grew.  One day, out of the blue Li was arrested for a crime he did not commit, when he was most helpless in jail the pica pica came visited him and sang at the window for a long time.  His was relieved by the bird’s visit and 3 days later, the good news about his release came.  It is believed the bird can transformed as a imperial guard with the notice for his release.  Since then, the pica pica is associated with the bearer of good news.

Ci Zhou KilnW70xH200xD120mm, China

Today, for Something New Something Old pottery, we have something old.  A figurine of a boy holding a lotus made in the Ci Zhou kiln.  On further research, the boy’s name is Mo He Yue, the Chinese folk portrayal of the Buddha Siddhattha Gotama’s son – Rahula.  Rahula was born before Prince Siddhartha was enlightened to become the buddha, being raised by the his mother and grandfather King Suddhodana.  When Rahula was 7 year old, the Buddha returned to the palace, on the 7th day his mother Princess Yasodhara told Rahula to ask his father for the inheritance of the crown since the Buddha has already renounced his duty as the prince.  The Buddha knowing the crown goes with the worldly life is full of trouble, so instead gave his son spiritual enlightenment.  The Buddha asked his disciple Sariputta to ordain Rahula who later became one of the arhants.

Since the Tang dynasty, figurines of Mo He Yue have been used for the worship for the Qi Xi festival (7th of lunar July).  However, the Qi Xi festival has nothing to do with Buddhism but a celebration of love between a cowboy (Nin Lang) and a weaver girl (Zhi Nu).  

The love story goes something like this; a poor boy called Nin Lang who live with lived with his brother and the wife.  The sister in law was not keen on having a boy hanging around and had a cunning plan.  She asked Nin Lang to herd 9 of her cows but on his returned claimed that there were 10, if Nin Lang didnt manage to find the 10th cow he will not be allowed home again.  Nin Lang found a sick yellow cow on the hill, he nursed him carefully until the cow regained its health.  The cow was very grateful and revealed that he was actually a saint who has been strike down to earth.  The cow became a buddy of Nin Lang and told him  a place on earth where the female saints would hang out and there Ning Lang met Zhi Nu.  The 2 soon fell in love with each other and had a twin.  The Queen Mother of the West (the supreme head of all female saints) found out this forbidden sin, a earthy being having children with the saint, and escorted Zhi Nu back to heaven.  Seeing that Nin Lang became very sad at the departure of his wife, the cow told Nin Lang that after his death, his skin could be used to make a pair of shoes that could bring Nin Lang to heaven so he could find Zhi Nu again.  Years later, the shoes were made, Nin Lang flew to the sky and saw Zhi Nu at a distance.  The Queen Mother of West throw a hair ornament which became the milky way separating the two again.  Moved by their love, the pica pica birds formed a bridge to help them cross the milky way.  The Queen Mother of West touched, made an exception for them, once a year on the 7th of lunar July, the 2 are allow to meet on the pica pica bridge.  This story is of course a conception of the early Chinese astronomy; Nin Lang being Altair, Zhi Nu being Alpha Lyrae, the yellow cow – the Aldebaran and of course the Milky Way.

Since the Tang dynasty there has been the worship of the 2 lovers, in particular Zhi Nu, the weaver of colourful clouds in the sky.  It is believed that the girls would pick up her skillful hands. Now what has Rahula, the son of the Buddha got to do with the 2 lovers.  It has to do with other custom of Qi Xi, as it is a night of the union of the lovers, baby figurines were made as a symbol of conception of the much desired baby boy.  By Tang dynasty, with the arrival of Buddhism from India, these baby figurines were made into Rahula who is gifted and grown to be an arhant, an image of a son everyone wished for.  Rahula, being left behind by the Buddha at birth but eventually enlightened and preached by the Buddha.  This reunion fulfilled the void left behind the by separation of Nin Lang and Zhi Nu.

Slowly, the figurine changed from their role of being worship to being admired and by Sung dynasty when technique of molding was made popular, the Rahula (Mo He Yue) figurine became a toy.

DIA250mm, China

The composition of this plate of the bird and the plum blossom which gave the plate its name – plum & bird plate.  The theme of bird and plum tree can be found on painting, pottery, jewellery, stationary, etc.  The pair sometimes are fighting for the attention of spring and sometimes delivering good news, they are often seen together.  Plum tree blossoms in the spring time, a start of a new year, both a sense of joy and happiness.  The bird, pica pica, is a special bird, according to the Chinese “Book of Birds” (around 500B.C.), the pica pica is capable of telling the weather – “If it sings with its head upwards it will be sunny, if it cries with its head facing down it will rain, people will be happy just listening to it sing”.  Looking at the plate, it seems weather will be good tomorrow, have a nice day everyone!

Though it is not a pica pica (magpie) and it didnt sing, nevertheless its a nice clip.