"Longevity" 壽 - ROM2018_16231_45


"Longevity" 壽

Maker: Wenyizhai
Medium:Woodblock print, ink and colour on paper
Geography: Xiaojiaochang, Shanghai, China
Period: Nineteenth to mid-twentieth century
Ht 54.5 x Wt 31.2 cm
Object number: 995.160.15.3
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Hood
Not on view

This “shou” print is one of a four-prints set (995.160.15.1-4). This set comes from a series of New Year prints. The upper section of each print is engraved with a different giant double-outlined character, which are respectively fu (fortune), lu 祿 (prosperity), shou (longevity), and xi (happiness). The characters are depicted in diverse colours and with varied background patterns.1

This piece depicts the god of longevity, who is holding a deer-headed walking stick in his right hand. On the walking stick hangs a bottle gourd. The god’s left hand gestures to a crane to come. The bottle gourd (hulu 葫蘆) is a pun for “fortune and prosperity” (fulu 福祿). In front of the god, a boy rides on a deer and raises two celestial peaches. Another boy is holding the rein of the deer and guiding it. The deer carries a ganoderma (a type of mushroom) in its mouth. Deer and crane are both symbols of longevity.

The four pictures together express good wishes for fortune, prosperity, longevity, and happiness. The first three prints are all inscribed with “Wenyizhai at the west of Shangyang Temple” (Shangyang miao xi wenyizhai 上洋廟西文儀齋), followed by a seal qiutian 秋田. The last print, “xi,” has the inscription “made by Wenyizhai at Shangyang” (Shangyang wenyizhai zhi 上洋文儀齋制), but no seal. According to the inscriptions, this series of New Year prints was made in the Wenyizhai print shop from Xiaojiaochang in Shanghai.

1 For the early publications of this set of prints, see Doré, Researches into Chinese Superstitions vol. IV, fig. 173a/b/c/d, 433-7.

Publication: Wen-Chien Cheng, and Yanwen Jiang. Gods in my home: Chinese ancestor portraits and popular prints (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 2019), 82-83.

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