Butterfly Vase

What do the different shapes of carved Chinese jade signify?

I know that the hand-carved shapes of Chinese jade stand for different things. The animals of the Chinese zodiac are representative of themselves, for example. But there are other shapes... butterfly, vase, etc. and I was told that each of them had some meaning. I have looked everywhere I can think to look online, with no answers. Anyone have any ideas? Thanks!

Yes, almost everything is symbolic of something in Chinese culture! It would take a THICK book to even begin to scratch the surface of Chinese symbolism & motifs!

I've listed a few common symbols and their general meaning:

Butterfly - Emblem of joy; Symbol of summer

Bat - Sounds similar to the character for happiness: Fu(2). Emblem of happiness and longevity. The design of 5 bats is a pictorial rebus for the "5 Blessings" ie old age, wealth, health, love of virtue and natural death(!). Often symbols of bats are so decorative that they apear to be butterflies.

Flowers - Certain flowers represent different times of the year. For e.g. Peony:Spring, Lotus:Summer, Chrysanthemum:Autumn and Plum Blossom:Winter.

Vase - The gift of a vase symbolises "peace" as the sound of the character for vase is similar to the character for peace.

Bamboo - Commonly known as "the friend of China". It is an emblem of longevity because it is durable and evergreen adn flourishes throughout the winter.

There's not much information online I'm afraid. Not that I know of anyway. However, there are books you can rfer to on this subject matter. A standard reference volume for many students of China/Chinese culture is, "Chinese Symbolism & Art Motifss" written by C.A.S. Williams. ISBN 0-8048-1586-0. It explains essential cultural symbols and contains interesting information on Chinese beliefs, customs, arts and crafts, food, medicine etc. I own this book and I think you will find it useful.

Hope that helps!

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