HM Chin Paraventgesamt

Chinese Paravent

China, first 3rd of the 20th Century

This large, high­ly dec­o­ra­tive screen con­sists of six pan­els in hard­wood with carved, orna­men­tal dec­o­ra­tion, and white, blue paint­ed porce­lain inlays, each with a carved frame.

The taller main pan­els of each pan­el show nine, 5‑claws drag­ons in dif­fer­ent posi­tions, the so-called Lòng. The low­er, small­er pan­els depict a Qilin, Kirin called in Japan, sym­bol for the uni­corn, the upper row the Fenghuang rep­re­sent­ing the Chi­nese Emperess. 

Three-dimen­sion­al­ly carved grids, and flower gar­lands are sur­mount­ing the screen. 

Sym­bol­ism & History:

The mid­dle, tall main porce­lain inlays with the nine, 5‑claws Lòng drag­ons indi­cate the rela­tion to the impe­r­i­al fam­i­ly. The inlays above depict­ing a female Fenghuang, which is espe­cial­ly excep­tion­al and most like­ly stands for the Chi­nese Empress her­self. This order of the female Fenghuang above the Lòng depic­tions, most like­ly stand­ing for the Emper­or, is very unusual. 

At this time, the impe­r­i­al wid­ow Cixi was in pow­er, though, and led the state affairs for her under­age son Emper­or Tongzhi and then for her under­age nephew Emper­or Guangzu from 1875 to 1889. She then arrest­ed Emper­or Guangzu and took over the reigns again in 1898 till her death in 1908. His­tor­i­cal­ly, she was the Empress for the longest time in power. 

On the basis of those back­ground details this beau­ti­ful screen assum­ably was made at the times when Empress Cixi held pow­er and was the regent of this great empire, espe­cial­ly of the depic­tion of the Fenghuang above the Lòng. sym­bol, which shows her supe­ri­or­i­ty over the men­tioned male Child-Emperors.

The pan­els on the bot­tom show­ing the Qilin rep­re­sent­ing the val­ues of hap­pi­ness, love, and peacefulness.

The Myth­i­cal Creatures:

The Lòng, the Chi­nese Drag­on, is the most known myth­i­cal crea­ture in Chi­na and the East Asian Cul­ture in gen­er­al. It rep­re­sents the Chi­nese Emper­or, there­fore also the term Throne of the Dragon.” 

The num­ber nine“ stands for the Drag­on in Chi­na and repeats itself in the nine sons of the drag­on and the nine ani­mals of which the drag­on con­sists. The Azur Drag­on is a pop­u­lar motif in art and rep­re­sents the East and Spring­time, and has a place on the yel­low flag of the Qing Dynasty (18891912).

The depic­tion of the drag­on with five claws was sole­ly reserved for the Impe­r­i­al Fam­i­ly and their entourage. Low­er ranks, how­ev­er, were only allowed to use drag­ons with three or four claws. It was for­bid­den on the death penal­ty to use the mis­use the impe­r­i­al dragon. 

The Fenghuang is a mytho­log­i­cal bird and a sym­bol for good luck that pro­tects the south­ern part of the Emperor’s Palace. Feng stands for the male, Huang for the female.The occa­sion­al­ly mis­lead­ing trans­la­tion Chi­nese Phoenix“ is actu­al­ly anoth­er myth­i­cal crea­ture and should not be mis­tak­en. The Fenghuang has a long head with large, elon­gat­ed eyes and a point­ed, slight­ly curved beak and long plumage, and accord­ing to leg­end reached a age of 1000 years. He also stands for com­pas­sion, sim­i­lar to the Qilin, the Chi­nese Unicorn.

To be high­light­ed is the sig­nif­i­cance of the Chi­nese Drag­on, Lòng, being depict­ed togeth­er with the Fenghuang; this par­tic­u­lar com­bi­na­tion rep­re­sents the Impe­r­i­al Cou­ple (Emperor/​Dragon, Empress/​Fenghuang).

The Qilin, also named Kirin, is the sym­bol for hap­pi­ness, peace­full­ness, jus­tice, and bless­ing of children.

In the Ming Dynasty, the ani­mal was depict­ed with a drag­on head with flame orna­ments and ox hooves, as well as with fish or drag­on scales. In the Qing Dynasty, deer antlers, a lion’s tail and a carp’s beard were added.

HM Chin Paravent D1
Fine, Chinese Screen H: 215 cm W: 6 panels each 41,5 cm, total W: c. 249 cm
HM Chin Paravent D2
HM Chin Paravent D3
HM Chin Paravent D4