"Dragon and Phoenix Treasure Money" 龍鳳錢馬(龍鳳寶錢) - ROM2018_16640_5


"Dragon and Phoenix Treasure Money" 龍鳳錢馬(龍鳳寶錢)

Medium:Woodblock print, ink on paper
Geography: Sichuan, China
Period: Republic of China, 1912-1949
Ht 87.8 x Wt 49.5 cm
Object number: 969.168.29
On view
Gallery Location:The Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume

In Picture A, the upper section of the print consists of four Chinese characters: Dragon, Phoenix, Treasure, and Money (long feng bao qian 龍鳳寶錢). The lower part has two sections. The top section depicts a dragon and a phoenix dancing in the clouds. Above the phoenix is the sun, while above the dragon is a glowing pearl. The section below depicts a foreigner wearing a pointed hat and an ethnic costume. He carries a coral in one hand and touches the elephant’s nose and tusks with the other hand. The elephant carries treasures on its back. The figure represents a foreign trader who is thought to be good at doing business. The motifs in these two sections are called “dragon and phoenix bring prosperity” (longfeng chengxiang 龍鳳呈祥) and “every time here comes the wealth” (huihui jinbao 回回進寶; huihui has the connotation of “every time” and Hui people).1 These motifs indicate people’s wishes for auspiciousness and wealth. Under the characters long feng bao qian, two copper coins are depicted; the characters are too blurry to identify. However, based on Picture B, the left one reads, “the son of heaven rules ten thousand years” (tianzi wannian 天子萬年), and the right one reads, “ten thousand treasures come to the court” (wanbao laichao 萬寶來朝). The reverse side of each coin is shown at the bottom of the picture. The border of the picture is in a crossed-twill pattern upon which are eight types of auspicious patterns: panchang 盤長, book and sword, rhino horn, calligraphy and painting, bergamot, ruyi, ganoderma, and a silver ingot with pen. The four corners are decorated with floral patterns.

Picture B is basically the same as Picture A, but the characters are slightly different: Dragon, Phoenix, Money, and Horse (long feng qian ma 龍鳳錢馬). The borders are also different; this print has two borders. In addition to the eight treasures, other kinds of auspicious treasures are included and a plaque is depicted on the top, inscribed with “respect as if present” (jingruzai 敬如在). The idea is that people should worship the ancestors and gods respectfully as if they were here. The characters Zhonghua mingguo 中華民國 (Republic of China) are printed on the outside border. The coins depicted at in each of the four corners are also distinctive of the Republican era. The coin on the upper right corner is inscribed with “made in Sichuan mint,” suggesting that this picture was circulated in the Sichuan area.

According to the English note originally attached to Picture B, these prints were used for ancestor worship. 2 Yet, there is no clear reference on how to use them for worshipping. 3 In terms of the quality of carving, Picture A is superior to Picture B. In the latter, the basic outline of the elephant can hardly be seen, and it is difficult to find the arms of the foreign trader.

1 Laing, “Yuwai laicai, yingcaishen he facai huanjia,” 108–22.

2 This note might have been written by Lewis Calvin Walmslay (1897–1989), who was the donor of these two prints. For more information about Walmslay, see the introduction of this catalogue.

3 According to the memory of Tai Yi 邰怡, an old master from the New Year picture workshop at Fengxiang, Shaanxi, longfengqianma was used as an offering table hanging. See Tai Yi, Wo suo jingli de fengxiang nianhua, 268. Another kind of longfengbaoqian is posted on the door beam during the Spring Festival. See Zhao Zongfu, Zhongguo jierizhi, chunjie: Qinghaijuan, 304.

Publication: Wen-Chien Cheng, and Yanwen Jiang. Gods in my home: Chinese ancestor portraits and popular prints (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 2019), 172-173.

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