Material and Medium: Ivory, wood
Dimensions: Overall: 77 x 144mm (3 1/16 x 5 11/16in.)
Overall: 83 x 50 x 144mm (3 1/4 x 1 15/16 x 5 11/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2007.291
On one side of this decorative plaque (one of a pair) are three pairs of ducks. They represent trust, affection and marital bliss.
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.
The design of ducks among reeds on these plaques makes two rebuses, the first is: 'May you be number one in the first class of the imperial examination'. The second is: 'May you do well in the examinations all the way to the top'. This indicates that these objects may have been a present for a scholar.Display Location: