Jan 24, 2018 - Aug 19, 2018

All good, Emolument, and Longevity

Hwajeong Museum

2018 Hwajeong Museum special exhibition

Hwajeong Museum’s 2018 Special Exhibition All Good, Emolument, and Longevity looks into Chinese symbols of hope and desire reflected in various genres of ancient Chinese art.

Since the old days people wished for a well-settled life consisting of peace, prosperity, fame, health and longevity for their families.
In order to express those desires through art ancient Chinese likened them to fruits and plants such as peach, grape and peony; to animals such as deer, crab and bat; and through stories of myths, legends as well as through homophones with an auspicious sound. All Good, Emolument, and Longevity has classified the said auspicious symbols into three categories to take a study the manner of expressions and the significance hidden within.

For this exhibition Hwajeong Museum showcases a total of 72 artifacts focused on China’s Qing Dynasty. Let All Good, Emolument, and Longevity be an opportunity to re-encounter these masterpieces.

All Good (福, Good Fortune, Blessing)
The first chapter of 'All Good, Emolument, and Longevity' looks into the ‘All good (福)’ part which means a good fortune. As we can see from common expressions like ‘Five Good Fortunes (五福),’ good fortune was an all-encompassing term for every concept deemed valuable in the traditional society. According to the old Chinese classic ‘Sangshu’ (Ancient Documents, 尙書) ‘Five Good Fortunes’ is made up of five elements; longevity (壽), wealth (富), health and composure (康寧), love of virtue (攸好德) and peaceful death (考終命). Then another concept was added down the road; continuance of family line and prosperity. The book ‘Compendium of Common Expressions’ written by Dí Xiǎn (翟顯) of Qing Dynasty mentioned Five Good Fortunes as longevity, wealth, health & composure, valuable and family prosperity.In the first chapter Hwajeong Museum’s 'All Good, Emolument, and Longevity' exhibition is out to explore two things; ‘Good Fortune’ as a generalized term for all things considered valuable in the traditional society and the later-added concept that symbolizes family fertility and prosperity. 

Since the Chinese pronunciation of the character 蝠 (Fú) that stands for ‘bat’ is quite similar to that of character 福 (Fú) meaning ‘good fortune’ bat came to stand for good luck, too.

A bat pattern that symbolizes good fortune is designed at the center of the silver-crafted fan.

The painting of Hundred of Children or Children Playing that shows lots of children makes quite clear of a desire to see many offspring in the family.

The desires to see many children and grandchildren and ensure the continuance of family line were all expressed in many colorful ways.

Grape was long used as a symbol of fertility (子孫) and continuance of family line thanks to its abundant fruits and vines that seems to continuously stretch far and wide.

The second chapter of 'All Good, Emolument, and Longevity' focuses on the symbols for emolument(祿). Emolument defined literally as gaining a position at a public office means one is getting a lift in his career (立身出世) headed toward the path of fame and prestige. Since joining a public office leads to accumulating riches and gaining honor (富貴) thus ensure a peaceful and secure life it was common for parents in the traditional society to pray for success in the national examination for their sons. Naturally symbols wishing for a successful exam and followed by that representing wealth and fame came to flourish.

Since the Chinese pronunciation of the character 鹿 (Lu) that stands for ‘Deer’ is quite similar to that of character 祿 (Lu) meaning ‘Emolument’, Deer came to stand for Emolument & getting a lift in his career too.

An inkstone made of jade and mother-of-pearl on the surface and adorned with deer.

Crab means success in the national examination, which means getting a lift in his career (立身出世) headed toward the path of fame and prestige.

Cat symbolized longevity in general. This is because Chinese character for a cat (猫) and that of ‘old’ (耄) are both pronounced ‘mao.’ Meanwhile a cat drawn with long, narrow iris would indicate that it’s noon in the picture, the brightest time of the day. Add some tall and long peonies into the scene to show flowers in full bloom and the painting would be interpreted as symbolizing wealth and prosperity in full bloom just those peonies.

Adorning the fan with various types of currencies can be interpreted as one’s wish to amass great wealth.

Longevity (壽)
The third chapter of 'All Good, Emolument, and Longevity' which is about ‘longevity’ looks into various symbols associated with a long life. Despite the differences in listing the types of good fortunes and which one precedes the other depending on time period, one thing for certain is that longevity always came on the top regardless of the era. Symbols of longevity came flourished in great scale appearing in diverse forms such as a peach, a divine immortal (神仙), Longevity Star God and so forth. The symbols appeared not only in tangible objects like paintings and crafts but also in other genres like literature and plays.

The role of Longevity Star God(壽星) is not only maintaining the stability of the nation and the life span of the nation’s ruler, but also evry individual's long life, at Ming & Qing Dynasty.

This painting itself contains an auspicious sign that symbolizes a desire to lead a good long life.

The Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu, 西王母) who resides in Mount Kunlun (崑崙山) of the west stands as the most prestigious female deity(女仙) in all Chinese mythology and Taoist legends. As the ruler of Taoist deities and the owner of the elixir of life and peaches of immortality, she is also hailed as a goddess of perpetual youth and immortality.

Peach is regarded as one of the major symbols of longevity.

Peach was expressed in various ways in paintings and crafts not only because it is beautiful both in shape and form but also include congratulation on long life.

Since the pronunciation of Chinese character for butterfly ‘die’ (蝶) is quite similar to the character ‘die’ (耋) that refers to an 80-year-olds, butterfly came to represent longevity.

A turtle is placed at the handle of incense burner while a pattern in form of Chinese character ‘壽’ (shou) adorns the center of lid. The incense burner is also decorated splendidly with pomegranates, peonies and other various branch designs associated with all kinds of auspicious meanings.

The painting features the gathering of three star gods that symbolize good fortune, emolument and longevity.

Hwajeong Museum
Credits: Story

Conceived and organized by
Hwajeong Museum, Republic of Korea


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