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Dragon and Phoenix (Long Feng)

Dragon and Phoenix, Jiajing period

'Dragon and Phoenix' decoration from a Vase and Cover, Jiaqing Seal Mark and Period (1796-1820), the dragon facing right. On this piece the large five-clawed scaly dragon in iron red enamel is rendered in a lively and robust manner, in sharp contrast with the pink-bodied phoenix drawn with soft brush strokes to highlight the bird's feminine quality. The overall composition is characteristic of the early Jiaqing period, when designs were often set amid meandering peony and hibiscus on a white body that served as the painter’s ‘canvas’, and when the influence of Qianlong period painting style remained strong and evident.

The dragon is the symbol of the emperor and represents fertility, while the phoenix embodies the warmth of the sun and helps produce male offspring. The dragon, together with the phoenix which is also the leader of all winged creatures, symbolizes the emperor and the empress, as well as representing marital bliss. When the two animals face each other, they convey the message of a happy reunion and good omen.

The Dragon and Phoenix motif is full of auspicious connotation, and vessels decorated with two of the most important mythical animals in Chinese tradition are typically made as wedding gifts. The phrase uttered as one of many good luck wishes during the wedding ceremony is long feng cheng xiang - meaning "Dragon and Phoenix bring Auspiciousness". In most cases the dragon (long) is shown to the right and the phoenix (feng) to the left.

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