Asian art is a catch all for so many regional styles and periods that it nearly collapses under its own weight. The field is vast and there are so many specialized terms to understand  often in Chinese and Japanese.


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine >CollectiblesFeature: Chinese Motif

Glossary of terms used in Asian art

Chinese Dynasty Names

Blending Asian Ceramics Into Your Decor

See our selected porcelain items in our shop

Why Collect Asian Art?

Collecting Asian Art

Celebrating Japanese-American Trade

Japanese Era Names

Antique Shopping in the Far East

Thangka Painting Explained

Thinking Buddha or Not?

Shiva Sculpture

Authenticating Japanese Swords


Tibetan Peaceful Deities (thumbnails or text)
Tibetan Wrathful Deities
(thumbnails or text)

Tibet Thangka & Mandala Paintings

Indian Statues

Antique Asian Statues


Differences Between Chinese and Japanese Porcelain

Chinese Porcelain

Japanese Pottery

Chinese Snuff Bottles

Japanese Netsuke: Sculpture in Miniature

A Chinese Sculpture Or Not?

Chinese Snuff Bottles
(Images of Asia)

by Robert Kleiner

Chinese Motif
  Chinese Motifs
On many Chinese garments, you will see the very mysterious and fantasy Chinese Icon.  You may be very interested in these and want to explore further in Chinese Culture.  We have a few lines below to give you a brief while interesting introduction to the fantastic Chinese Icons.
Dragon design
Dragon is a commonly used design for Mandarin garment making.  It means "Supreme Power".  You may be curious whether only emperor wore dragon designs.  Actually there is a very interesting tradition about this.  If the head of the dragon is facing out, it marks the initiation of the tradition for the emperor.  And the later is his most favoured courtiers, to wear dragons that faced the onlooker, while other noblemen and officials wore profile dragons.
Phoenix design
The phoenix is a commonly used design for ladies' garment within Imperial family.  Actually it is the tradition that the Empress wore Dragon designs often and the Phoenix is worn by Imperial concubines, wives of prices and princesses.  
Wives of dukes, marquises, earls, and first- and second-rank officials wore tartar pheasants designs.  
Wives of third- and fourth-rank officials wore peacock designs.
Wives of fifth-rank officials wore mandarin ducks design.
Wives of sixth- and seventh- rank officials wore paradise flycatchers.
Wives of eight- and ninth-rank officials wore flowers.
All these are symbols of "beautifulness" and "Purity".
Longevity Motif
Both the round and narrow butterfly-shaped motives stand for the Chinese character "Shou", which means "Longevity".  This motif is commonly used in Mandarin garment making to bear a meaning of long life wish.
"Five Blessing and Longevity" Motif
The round icon inside stands for the Chinese character "Shou", which means "Longevity".  The icon is encircled by five bats. When pronouncing the "Bats" in Chinese Language, it sounds same like "Blessings" in Chinese Language. The total composition stands for "Five Blessing and Longevity", which is commonly used in Mandarin garments to bear a meaning of blessing and long life.


Happiness Motif
This icon stands for the Chinese character "Xi", which means "Happiness".  The icon is commonly used on the Mandarin garment making to declare a particularly joyous occasion.
Poeny design
Poeny is a very commonly used design for ladies' garments.  Because the poeny is the most favoured flower by Chinese people for 5,000 years and is doted by Chinese people even till now.  It was thus decided for Chinese National Flower.  This flower stands for "Beautifulness" and "Purity".
Lotus design
Lotus is also a doted flower by Chinese people.  There is a fairy-tale in Chinese culture about a Lotus Fairy, a beautiful and charming lady always giving a helping hand to people.  Lotus is also a sacred flower in Tibet.  It is adored and worshiped by Tibet people for its purity and sanctity.  People use it on garment making, it stands for "Beautifulness" and "Purity".
Chrysanthemum design
Chrysanthemum is an also commonly used design for ladies' garments making.  It stands for "Longevity" in Chinese culture.


Fish design
Fish in Chinese traditional culture means "Prosperous", just because when pronouncing this Chinese charactor, it sounds "Yu" which has a same meaning as "Prosperous".  Thus Chinese people love to use this fish disign on their garments to wish a prosperous future.

16" $700

From Amazon:
The Mandala (Sacred Symbols)
by Robert Adkinson
Hardcover (1995)

A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols:
Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought
by Wolfram Eberhard
Paperback (1988)

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