Ding Liangxian, Flowers and Incense, a colour woodblock print


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This print was originally produced by members of the Ding family studio in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Each print is of an auspicious subject accompanied by a verse which is a pun on the motifs depicted.In this print, different good wishes are expressed through a complex combination of symbols. The wish for peace, prosperity and riches in the accompanying verse is echoed by the bronze vessels. The two components of the word for bronze give the meaning 'gold-like' and as objects of antiquity they are regarded as valuable. The word for vase, ping, is a homophone for peace. The vase here is decorated with divinatory trigrams for fire and thunder. It contains peonies, a representation of spring, and orchids which allude to the fragrance of wealth referred to in the verse, as does the burning of incense, xiang. The word for bat, fu, is a homophone for happiness, while the wisps of smoke emerging from the incense-burner has curled into shapes of the lingzhi fungus, the symbol of longevity. Other symbols of spring, like the water narcissus and camellia, suggest that this print was probably used during the Chinese New Year.Like many prints from this group, the technique of embossing known as gonghua has been used to distinguish the multiple petals of the peonies and to enhance their subtle colour gradations.


  • Title: Ding Liangxian, Flowers and Incense, a colour woodblock print
  • Date Created: 1600/1699
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: printed; gauffrage; woodcut
  • Registration number: 1906,1128,0.23
  • Producer: Made by Ding Liangxian
  • Place: Found/Acquired China
  • Period/culture: Ming dynasty; Qing dynasty
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Sloane, Hans

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