In Full Bloom: Floral Motifs in Asian Art

The symbolic power of seasonal blossoms

Lotus blossoms, peonies, fruits, and more springing up throughout Freeman’s upcoming Asian Arts auction.

04/13/2023     Latest News, News and Film, Asian Arts

As spring returns—and with it, bright new growth in our gardens and on our trees—Freeman’s April 18 Asian Arts auction provides plenty of opportunities to admire blossoms in a different sort of medium. Flowers rendered in ink, carved into jade, or painted in glaze on porcelain not only provide charming visual appeal, but open onto a world of symbolic meaning in Chinese and Japanese art.


Flora & Fauna

asian vase

Lot 91 | A Chinese Blue and White Porcelain Gu-form "Hunters" Beaker Vase


Two works on offer in Asian Arts highlight a frequent interplay featured time and again in Chinese decoration: that of flowers and birds or insects. A Chinese blue and white porcelain Gu-form “Hunters” beaker vase (Lot 91) captures a dynamic scene of hunters pursuing hares with a hound, with the vase’s waist featuring an elegant pattern of flowers, birds, and insects. The combination of imperial hounds and horses with flowers and birds makes this vase very auspicious indeed.

A Chinese powder blue and gilt decorated ovoid jar and cover (Lot 112), on the other hand, offers striking and serene elegance; its allover decoration features blossoms, birds, and elaborately executed scroll borders.


chinese vase

Lot 112 | A Chinese Powder Blue and Gilt Decorated Ovoid Jar and Cover


Seasonal Fruits and Flowers

chinese balsam pear bowls

Lot 126 | A Fine Pair of Chinese Famille Rose-decorated "Balsam-Pear" Bowls


Though most of the floral lots on offer in Asian Arts feature springtime blooms, some also display the fruits to follow—including a fine pair of Chinese famille rose-decorated “Balsam-Pear” bowls (Lot 126). Balsam pear, also known as bitter melon, is sometimes eaten during Lunar New Year celebrations as a symbol of leaving the past year’s negativity behind. The fruit depicted on the present bowls, with its many red seeds, suggests a wish for numerous sons—and, by extension, abundance and prosperity.


chinese porcelain nine peaches vase

Lot 121 | A Large Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose "Nine Peaches" Vase

Another exquisite porcelain work on offer in Freeman’s upcoming sale is a large Chinese porcelain famille rose “Nine Peaches” vase (Lot 121), which features both fruit as well as various flowers. Though many fruits are symbolically meaningful in the realm of Chinese art and culture, peaches specifically signify health and longevity. In Chinese symbolism, the number nine symbolizes infinity; thus, the present work offers up a wish for infinite longevity.

The Lotus 

chinese gilt bronze lotus-form pedestal stand

Lot 3 | A Chinese Gilt Bronze Lotus-form Pedestal Stand


Lotus flowers are a ubiquitous fixture in Chinese art and culture, but what does their presence symbolize? Examples like a Chinese gilt bronze lotus-form pedestal stand (Lot 3) help us understand their powerful symbolic and religious meaning: the Ming dynasty work was originally created for a seated Buddha or bodhisattva, and the lotus’s symbolic significance as a bearer of purity is well suited for such an important role.


Chinese famille rose boy vase

Lot 122 I A Large Chinese Famille Rose-decorated "Boys" Vase


Lotuses can be spotted throughout Asian Arts, but are particularly striking in Lot 122, a large Chinese famille rose-decorated “Boys” vase, an incredibly intricate and elegant work featuring a scene of boys at play flanked by lotus scrolls and Buddhist symbols. Rendered in vibrant lime greens, pinks, and blues, the imagery on this eye-catching vase is particularly auspicious, featuring a lush landscape of not only lotus blossoms, but additional flowers, trees, fish, and even dragons—a notable symbol of good fortune.



View the rest of our April 18 Asian Arts auction.



Have something similar? Get in touch with our Asian Arts department to request a complimentary auction estimate.