Daoist Paradise Brushpot

青花「封神演義」故事圖筆筒

Chongzhen Period 1628–1644

This brushpot, a masterpiece of the Chong- zhen period, is painted in a deep, vibrant cobalt blue in the most precise yet paint-

erly of hands. Remarkable variations of expression have been given to the faces and deportment of the figures. with an economy of brushstrokes, the amused look on the female figure as she acquiesces to the theft
of peaches by the mischievous monkeys, the comradely spirit emanating from the three figures in the cave as well as the encounter of the stern military figure standing beside a less than fierce tiger and the literatus.

Three scenes are depicted, separated
by vertical layered rockwork and swirling cloudbanks. Their iconographic connection is indicated by a river, skillfully depicted with swift horizontal strokes, that runs through the decoration and links the scenes. The scenes appear to represent episodes from the Ming novel Fengshen Yanyi that take place on Mount Kunlun, a Daoist Paradise, during the declining years of the Shang dynasty.

In the first scene, three characters from the novel are depicted on a lofty mountain pathway. One, standing by the face of a rock dressed in scholar’s robes and holding a flywhisk is probably identifiable as the hero

of the novel, the brilliant military strategist Jiang Ziya, who goes on to bring victory to the Zhou dynasty. Confronting him with
his hand held out in a gesture of warning is an imposing figure wearing military attire, accompanied by a tiger. This is probably Zhao Gongming, also known as Marshal Zhao, who in the story is enlisted as an advisor by the cruel and decadent last ruler of the Shang. Behind the Marshal is a regal female figure, probably Xi Wangmu, a senior deity and ruler of Mount Kunlun. She is accompanied by an attendant.

In the charming second scene, two light- coloured apes dangling acrobatically from a fruit-laden tree jutting from a rock cooperate to pass a sprig of peaches into a basket-scoop held out on a pole by a simply-dressed young girl kneeling by a river. She probably repre- sents one of Xi Wangmu’s hand-maidens, sent to collect peaches for a banquet. This scene has multiple echoes. Monkeys and peaches recall Sun Wukong (“Monkey” from the “The Journey to the West”) who steals a peach from Xi Wangmu’s garden to obtain immortality, while the light colouring of the apes suggests the story of the White Ape who steals a peach to give to his sick mother.

h:20.8cm 8 1∕5in
dia: 18.8cm 7 1∕8in

明崇禎

高:20.8 公分 直徑: 18.8 公分

81∕5 英寸 71∕8 英寸