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Chinese ceramic octagonal box and cover made to for the Asian market decorated on the cover with a crab in underglaze cobalt blue (qinghua), Ming dynasty.


Stock Number: 5165

Rare Chinese export ceramic octagonal box and cover made to the Asian market decorated on the cover with a crab in underglaze cobalt blue (qinghua), 16th century, Ming dynasty, d. 9 cm, 3 ½ in; h. 6 cm, 2½ in. 1-19369  

◆ Crab is another one of positive and fortunate animals in Chinese tradition. Chinese people believe this sea creature brings good life, harmony, peace and wealth. It is particularly important to Chinese men; they would wear crab talismans in order to attract luck and progress.

In symbolical sense, people associate them with progeny, family and longevity.

In Chinese language, terms for ‘crab’ and ‘harmony’ sound the same. They are both pronounced as ‘xie’, only the letter is different. Chinese believe this slow and steady creature brings peace and harmony and they admire it for these powers;

Crabs move in a strange manner; they look as they only stay in one place, rather than moving around. Their strange way of slowly moving sideways actually appears as staggering, rather than walking.

Chinese interpret this crabs’ characteristic as a reminder that all things in life come with patience and embracing the rhythm of the life itself. True progress never comes for a night, you have to be steady, patient and to work towards it. For Chinese, crab motion is completely in harmony with the flow of natural energy and the circle of life.

Boxes and covers of this type were shipped with their covers attached, so that the correct cover stayed with its base. However, in this case they had a problem removing the cover because some glaze had filled in between the joint, this has caused some damage to the edges when it was divided in the 16th century.

In the Vung-Tao Cargo, from the early Kangxi reign, some small boxes were salvaged with their covers attached and were full of seawater.

This type of boxes could have been ordered to serve crabs at the table.