Vase with the Eight Immortals
Mark: inscription carved in a later period daoguang xinchou taiyuan zunji (see below)
The beaker vase with rounded shoulders tapers down to an elegantly narrow foot. The neck constricts slightly before flaring out to a wide trumpet mouth. The decoration consists of eight leaf-shaped reserve panels depicting the Eight Immortals (the most famous group of Daoist adepts) against a diaper ground.
The Eight Immortals are people from various walks of life, who, having absorbed the Elixir of Life, became immortals and are worshipped as gods of longevity. Zhongli Chuan, leader of the eight, appears on the neck of the vase. He carries a fan which revives the dead. Below him on the right is Lan Caihe, holding her basket of flowers. Next to her is the elderly Zhang Guolao whose attributes are the bamboo fish drum and two metal beaters, while below him is the youthful Han Xiangzi, patron of musicians, playing his flute. On the body of the piece, Cao Guojiu is shown directly below the leader of the Eight Immortals. Cao alone among the eight came from a noble background, for he was brother-in-law to the emperor of China, and he appears as a nobleman playing the wooden clappers. The cripple beggar on his right is Li Tieguai, holding his iron crutch and magic gourd emiting vapours. Next to him is the handsome Lu Dongbin, carrying a scroll and wearing a sword behind him. Below is He Xiangu shouldering a bamboo sieve. Among the Eight Immortals, only He Xiangu’s attribute changes with time. During the 18th century, the bamboo sieve becomes a lotus leaf or blossom. In this example, the sieve follows the Ming dynasty formula.
As indicated by the inscription, this vase was dedicated to Taiyuan, the Supreme Primogenitor of the Daoist religion, in 1841, by a follower named Zun.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection
Porcelain with underglaze-blue decoration
Qing dynasty, Kangxi period
Jiangxi province, China
H: 45.6 cms., Dia: 22 cms.