This biscuit porcelain figure of Daoist Immortal Lan Caihe, is glazed in purple and turquoise enamels - the head, hands and legs left unglazed. The tilted head, has a friendly expression with a faint smile; the elongated earlobes indicating that we are looking at a divine figure. The hair, which coiled into two topknots, still has traces of black colouring. He is dressed in a flowing turquoise robe tied at the waist, the wide sleeves edged in purple. The short purple cape, which covers the shoulders, is knotted at the neck. The robe has a flared skirt, which falls loosely over white trousers, his bare feet peeping out from underneath. In his right hand he holds a long-handled purple flower basket. The figure stands on a square purple plinth with turquoise edges, the underside left unglazed with a small central hole. In black ink there are two Chinese characters 宋珮 (Song Pei) a name of perhaps the owner or patron.
Lan Caihe, is one of the Eight Daoist Immortals (Baxian), particularly known from a 13th century play telling the tale of his attainment of immortality. He represents ambiguity and paradox, either depicted as a youthful male, female or even androgynous figure. He can often be recognised by the basket of flowers or fruit he carries; sometimes also depicted with an instrument such as a flute or clappers. This happy-go-lucky figure was said to have lived a vagabond life, wandering around in a ragged blue robe, sometimes missing a shoe. Lan Caihe particularly loved acting and singing, giving all his earnings to the poor. He is the bringer of beauty and happiness, as well as the embodiment of innocence, making him a very fitting patron of florists and gardeners.
The Anthony de Rothschild collection has a very similar turquoise glazed figure, from the Ming Dynasty. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, also has a glazed pottery figure of Lan Caihe (acc.nr. 28-1883). A Blanc de Chine figure of Lan Caihe is in the Musée Guimet, Paris (G5440).