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Table Screen with “Bringing Longevity to the Sea Pavilion” Design

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: Red sandalwood, stained ivory, copper
Date: undated
Dimensions: Height: 150 cm; length: 98 cm; depth: 60 cm

The design of this table screen combines traditional Western and Chinese motifs, including the Western passion flower design and the Chinese symbols of the stylized wan (myriad) character and kui-dragon pattern (which has a turned-up snout and is usually shown in profile with only one leg visible). These motifs decorate the rosewood frame of the screen. The lacquered screen features stained ivory and kingfisher feathers in the design of “Bringing Longevity to the Sea Pavilion” (Haiwu tianchou). This traditional design is found typically on gifts for birthday celebrations. The design features a crane carrying an auspicious chip towards a pavilion. Celestial mountains and pavilions stand amidst the endless sea. A white monkey holding a peach of immortality (pantao) and celestial beings make their way to the pavilion for a celebration of longevity.

This table screen was crafted in Guangzhou for the Qianlong Emperor’s eightieth birthday. After Empress Dowager Cixi elevated herself to a position of dominance over the court, she held birthday celebrations as extravagant as those in the most prosperous periods of the dynasty. She would even misappropriate birthday gifts that had been presented to her imperial ancestors for her own birthdays.

English editing by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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