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Chinese Snuff Bottle Discussion Forum 中國鼻煙壺討論論壇
December 04, 2022, 03:15:17 pm
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The Legend of the Flood

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Wattana
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« on: September 06, 2021, 03:03:03 am »

I am following up on a porcelain bottle that was shown during our last online meeting. I had said at the time that it depicted the Legend of the Kings of the Four Seas.
Richard kindly offered to do some research on the bottle, taking as a starting point the name on the city gate, which has revealed a different story altogether. With Richard's permission, below is an extract from his comments:

The name on the city gate is Shizhou City(泗州城).

This is an ancient city that can be traced to the 6th century during the Northern Zhuo dynasty. It got its name as it was located beside the Shi River. It was a prosperous city at one time, busy with commercial activities. The city has many canals, waterways and bridges, resulting in a convenient transportation system. As a result, it became a busy trading hub. However, the city was located in low-lying terrain and therefore often subjected to floods.
The most severe flood occurred in 1697, during the Kangxi period of the Qing dynasty whereby the entire city was submerged under flood waters. The city has remained underwater till these days.

As a result, many stories and legends of floods have emerged. One of the more popular version is as follows:

According to the story, Lady Shuimu (水母), a subordinate of the Dragon King, wished to avenge his death. The Dragon King was executed for summoning rain at the wrong timing and pouring the wrong volume. Lady Shuimu decided to flood the world and brought with her two buckets of water.

However, her plan was accidentally discovered by Zhang Guolao (张果老), one of the eight immortals in Chinese legend. He then pretended to be an ordinary old man with a donkey. He approached Shuimu outside Shizhou City and asked for some water to quench the thirst of his donkey. Not knowing that it was a trick, Shuimu agreed and let the donkey drink the water. However, as Zhang's donkey was no ordinary donkey, it almost drank all the water from the buckets. Panicked, Shuimu then spilled the remaining water, causing a major flood in Shizhou city.

The Heavenly Jade Emperor, angered by the havoc caused by Shuimu, sent a heavenly army to punish and capture her.
The scene on the bottle depicts Lady Shiumu summoning the sea creatures and monsters to fight with the heavenly army. She can be seen on the second photo carrying two knives as her weapon.

(As a side note, the dragon story originated from the classic, Journey to the West. It was said that the Tang emperor had nightmares after the execution of the dragon. Therefore, he ordered a pilgrimage to India to seek for the Buddhist scripts to pacify the dead dragon. Thus, the name of the novel: Journey to the West.)

As for the mark on the base, it appears to be one of the nine Sons of the Dragon. This is the sixth son known as Bi Xi (赑屃) or Ba Xia (霸下).

According to Chinese legend, the dragon had nine sons, each with different capabilities and appearances. The sixth son, often depicted with a turtle shell, is the strongest and can bear heavy weight. He is usually used in Chinese buildings as the base of a monument or a tombstone.

Painting him on the base, as if carrying the weight of the bottle, is a nice little artistic touch.

Enjoy!

Tom




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« Last Edit: September 06, 2021, 03:21:06 am by Wattana » Report Spam   Logged

Hooked since 1971

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Wattana
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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2021, 03:11:48 am »

Details of the bottle itself:

Porcelain snuff bottle of cylindrical form with a short flared neck, everted lip, and a circular footrim with recessed base, painted in underglaze cobalt blue and copper-oxide red, depicting two figures atop the gateway to a walled city looking down at a watery scene of sea-creatures and demons rising in combat out of the waves; the recessed base with a stylized depiction of Bi Xi. Tourmaline stopper set in a silver collar.

Height w/o stopper:  7.6 cm

1830-1880

Quite apart from the subject, however, this bottle is quite remarkable for the astonishing control of the colours. In firing this type of porcelain ware there is a very fine balance in getting the temperature just right to prevent the colours ‘bleeding’. Here the red has been used in two different shades, and even with the brighter shade, a sharpness of line is maintained which is extremely unusual for the more vivid hues of underglaze red. The present example is one of the most painterly of all underglaze decorated snuff bottles, with a lovely use of washes of both red and blue, exemplified, perhaps, by the delightful cloudy washes around the shoulders. 
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rpfstoneman
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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2021, 12:19:42 pm »


Tom,

Thanks for sharing the bottle again and particularly the background story.  It adds a little bit more to the storyline of the 'Journey West' of which I know little.  I'm going to have to sit down and read a book with this story one of these days.

Charll
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Charll K Stoneman, Eureka, California USA, Collector Since 1979.

Fiveroosters aka clayandbrush
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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2021, 01:54:35 pm »

Dear Tom,
VERY nice bottle. I am envious.
This bottle is a mystery to me. How they did achieve to have the red and the brown exactly in proper spaces, I mean in deliberately chosen spaces?
For what I know, the underglaze red is turning red or brown according to different concentration of oxygen in the kiln. Then it is not understandable how they were able to obtain this result.
With all evidence, I am missing something.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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richy88
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2021, 11:36:32 pm »

Dear all

The story on this bottle is actually quite well spread in northern part of China. There is a Chinese opera by the same name.

It is used as a typical example to showcase the acrobatic stunts and martial art skills of the lead actress. Here is the link to a video clip which show the battle between Shuimu and the heavenly army lead by the monkey god (modified version):



Enjoy!


Richard
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Richard from sunny Singapore
Evaluate • Educate • Entertain
Joey
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2021, 07:04:14 pm »

Dear Tom & Dear Richard,

    You are both to be commended for this wonderful work on the subject matter on this beautiful B & W bottle.
Best,
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

Wattana
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2021, 04:47:09 am »

Dear Joey,

Richard put all the effort into researching the subject matter of this bottle.
I am only the present custodian of it, for which I can take no credit.  Wink 

Best,
Tom
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Joey
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2021, 04:58:44 am »

Dear Tom,

    Knowing who to ask, and what to ask, is also important.
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

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« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2021, 09:19:58 am »

Dear Tom and Richard,

Thanks for sharing the written and
video background on the subject of the
b&w bottle ! It makes our collecting
experience more enriching and fun -
something you may not even get during the
ICBS convention ?!

Inn Bok
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