Material and Medium: Ivory
Dimensions: Overall: 225 x 60 x 50mm (8 7/8 x 2 3/8 x 1 15/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2007.317
This vase has the shape and decoration similar to Ming dynasty (1368-1644) bronze vessels that were placed on altars. On the cover is a lion, associated with Buddhism.
On the neck are ring handles in the mouths of beasts called 'jiaotu', and a stylised and semi-abstract version of the beast 'taotie' is repeated in the decoration on the sides.
In Chinese legend it was said that the dragon had nine sons who were not dragons. Each had a different appearance and special characteristics, and were used to get rid of evil and maintain peace. The 'jiaotu' was the ninth son, who preferred to keep to himself in his den, and did not wish others to enter. The image appears on doors with a ring knocker in its mouth, as a guard. The 'taotie' was the fifth son, a vicious beast with a large eyes and a gaping mouth. He was always hungry and had a large appetite.