566. Pair of Lotus Brushwashers
China, Dehua, Fujian Province, Kangxi Period (1662-1722), Early 18th Century
Height: 3 cm
Length: 12 cm
Duchesse E. de Bruce collection, France
These elegant Blanc de Chine brush-washers, are in the shape of a lotus leaf with curled edges. A stem extends from the centre of the dish, over the edge, connecting with another stem extending from under the leaf , ending in a small leaf and flower bud.
The lotus is a very emblematic flower to the Chinese. The Chinese word for lotus, lian (莲), is phonetically identical with lian, meaning to bind or connect. It has great symbolic value, particularly in association with Buddhism. In this context the lotus represents purity of thought and enlightenment; their deities are therefore often shown sitting or standing on a lotus. This plant also represents clarity and resilience in general, as its flowers emerge unstained from the surrounding muddy waters. Thus it forms an apt metaphor for the poor scholar, who could elevate themselves by passing the imperial examinations. These brush washers would have served as a useful emblematic reminder to the scholar using them to wet their brushes for calligraphy.
Identical Brush washers are in the Percival David Foundation collection in The British Museum, London.