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Stylised carp, Late Ming Dynasty

(early 17th century)

Chinese decorative arts flourished towards the end of the Ming Dynasty in particular. The wonderful stylisation of this carp is a perfect example.

The word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for riches and abundance, and fish are therefore widely depicted in this context.

Moreover, in Chinese culture carp are associated with social success. In mythology, carp can be transformed (into) dragons if they manage to swim upstream past the waterfall at the Dragon Gate in the Yellow River. Only a few of the thousands of carp that gather at the foot of the waterfall in spring manage to do so. This is why the comparison was made to achieving good results in the difficult exams for administrative positions. To this day, students are shown an image of a jumping carp that symbolises that hard work can help you climb the social ladder.

  • CH06

  • h. 8 cm, l. 23 cm.