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532. Lan Caihe

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1710-20
Height: 24 cm

Provenance: private collection, United Kingdom

A smiling figure of a Daoist immortal in long yellow robes, edged in white. In his right hand he carries a green basket with flowers, identifying him as one of the eight Daoist immortals: Lan Caihe. His finely moulded cheerful expression and dimpled cheeks, exude joy and happiness. His head, neck and hands are left in the biscuit, only the eyes and eyebrows picked out in black. He stands on an rectangular hollow plinth, enamelled in aubergine around the sides - the top and bottom left unglazed.

Lan Caihe, is one of the lesser known of the Eight Immortals (Baxian) and was never venerated individually. He represents ambiguity and paradox, either depicted as a youthful male, female or androgynous figure. Living a drunken and vagabond life he loved acting and singing, finally leaving this world on the back of a crane. He is emblematic of innocence, beauty and happiness and the patron of florists and gardeners.

A Blanc de Chine figure of Lan Caihe is in the Musée Guimet, Paris (G5440). A pair of related immortals with similar plinths, were in the former S.E. Kennedy collection.

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