Material and Medium: Ivory, wood
Dimensions: Overall: 155 x 103mm (6 1/8 x 4 1/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2007.329
To Western eyes, Chinese ivory carvings look like attractive objects covered in decorative creatures and flowers, but in those decorations is a greater significance. The Chinese language uses homophones; this means words that sound the same but have different meanings. Sometimes an animal or a plant symbolises a virtue, while designs can also combine to form elaborate verbal puns or rebuses.
This brush holder is decorated with long tailed birds and camellia, that convey the blessing 'May spring radiance be everlasting'. This is a wish for longevity, while the 'ruyi' fungus means that this blessing should be 'just as you wish'.