Table screen with immortals


Not on view

The table screen features a traditional Taoist scene: Eight Immortals offering birthday greetings to the Deity of Longevity (Shoulao). The deity, with his iconic enlarged bald cranium, sits on a rocky prominence flanked by ornamental garden rocks, leafy plants, and pine trees. Overhead, auspicious clouds frame the circular orbs of the sun and moon (identified by inscribed characters (ri and yue). In the foreground, the Eight Immortals in two lines bear gifts—a peach of longevity, cup of wine, magic gourd, and a magic fungus (lingzhi); play music on a flute or clappers; or hold their attributes. A crane, another symbol of longevity, dances at the center of the group. Under the rock where Shoulao is seated are four incised characters that convey every scholar’s aspiration: “ci jinshi di” or “confer the jinshi degree,” the highest degree in the imperial civil service exam. This central panel is framed by a wide ornamental border of scrolling leaves and auspicious flowers: lotuses (and water birds) rising from waves along the bottom, chrysanthemums on the two sides, peonies along the top. The back of the screen bears the incised fine-line drawing of an ornamental garden rock backed by the broad leaves of a banana plant. No brass has been added to enhance this design. The screen’s original stand is missing. It bears no maker’s mark.

Table screen with immortals, Pewter, brass, China

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