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Polychrome Lacquered Table with Engraved “Auspicious” Character

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736–1795), Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium: lacquer, wood
Date: 1744

 During festivals and banquets, smaller tables were placed atop the emperor’s large banqueting table for arranging dishes. On the morning of the first day of the first lunar month, the emperor would eat savory dumplings (jiaozi). The plate on which the dumplings were served was placed directly upon this “auspicious” (ji) character.

The Manchus called foods made with flour bobo; savory boiled dumplings were called “boiled bobo”. In 1783 (the forty-eighth year of the Qianlong reign, 1736–1795) between three and five o’clock in the morning on the first day of the first lunar month, the Qianlong Emperor ate dumplings on the east side of the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) in the Hall of Promoting Virtue (Hongde dian). The eunuchs presented the boiled dumplings in a lacquered box engraved with a flying-dragon design and placed the plate with the dumplings on the small table directly upon the “auspicious” (ji) character. Of the four dumplings served upon the plate, two contained coins. Eating a dumpling containing a coin represents enjoying auspiciousness throughout the year. The emperor ate three of the four dumplings. The remaining dumpling did not contain a coin and was delivered to the Buddhist shrine for presentation as an offering.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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