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Subject:Pottery old? household god
Posted By: Larry Wed, Apr 17, 2019 IP:

Hello, I've had this figure for many years and I was told it came from a Cantonese family in Vancouver.
The figure is hollow and looks like it was molded of a softer cream coloured type of clay, not a hard porcelain.

Any information appreciated.


Subject:Re: Pottery old? household god
Posted By: Bill H Sat, Apr 20, 2019

This is the Chinese God of Long Life, commonly called "Shoulao". The deer and crane are two of this deity's "attributes", meaning features commonly associated with him. In this case, they also might be called his "conveyances", as he often is shown being borne on the back of one or the other.

Considering its provenance to a Cantonese family and your description of the piece, it probably can't legitimately be described as "Blanc de Chine", which is a high-fired porcelain from Dehua, in Fujian Province. Instead, it likely comes from one of the southern kilns, perhaps at Shiwan, in the Guangzhou (Canton) suburbs in Guangdong Province. Judging from the comparatively flat features of the deity compared to the highly dimensional scope of his two attributes, it may be that he was slip-cast in a mold, while the heads and upper bodies of the deer and crane were sculpted and luted in place before final glazing and firing. If slip casting is the case, as usually is indicated by an open base, it would mean the figure is no older than about the second quarter of the 20th century, when the process was introduced commercially in China.

Below is another slip-cast figurine from the same period, depicting a girl holding a melon with dog at her feet. This one is hard-paste porcelain and lacks the crackle of your soft-paste image, although other visible characteristics are similar. The item also dates to around the second quarter of the 20th century, during the Republic Period, when images of girls in naturalistic settings finally gained prominence in art like this, which traditionally had been the province of boys.

Best regards,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Pottery old? household god
Posted By: Larry Sat, Apr 20, 2019

Well thanks for your considered input, Bill.

It makes sense that the figure is Cantonese and not blanc-de-chine porcelain. The piece is, as you say, slip cast, although from the texture inside the figure it could be that a certain amount of 'jollying' (pressing) came into play too, as there are some sharp areas inside - maybe when the modeled animals were luted on?

A southern Chinese production also makes sense as the majority of early Chinese emigres in BC are almost all from two Cantonese towns, Zhongshan and Toisan.

Thanks again for your help, much appreciated.

Larry | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |