Tray with Decoration of Dragon and Chinese Characters
Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Jiajing period (1522–66)
Carved red lacquer
H. 2 in. (5.1 cm); Diam. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm)
Lent by Florence and Herbert Irving
This tray is one of the finest products of the official workshops of the Jiajing era. It was probably made in the early part of the reign, before Daoist imagery began to dominate at court. The dragon at center holds up the Chinese character sheng, which means “divine or imperial majesty.” The characters fu, on the right, and bi, on the left, which generally mean “to add” or “to support,” can be used to refer to the chief ministers, but in this case they may refer back to the dragon, a well-known symbol of imperial authority.