Chinese Symbols Glossary for Art Motifs Found on Chinese Paintings.
 

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Chinese Symbols and Art Motifs
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Bamboo
Always green in color, bamboo is a symbol of old age and modesty. Bamboo and plums together represent man and wife. Bamboo, pine trees, and plums commonly seen together in a painting are the "Friends in Winter". Chinese Bamboo Paintings

Banana
Symbol for self-discipline.

Bat
One of the top symbols for good luck. The word "bat" in the Chinese language sounds identical to the word for "Good Fortune." Often five bats are shown together to represent the Five Blessings; a long life, riches, health, love of virtue, and a natural death.

Bear
Symbolizes man and stands for strength and courage.

Beard
A sign of supernatural power or of bravery, especially when it is red or purple.

Bee
Symbolizes industriousness and thrift.

Black
Symbolizes darkness, death, honor.

Book
The book is one of eight symbols of the scholar and represents learning.

Bowl
The bowl is one of the eight Buddhist precious things. It represents the stomach of the Buddha and may also represent the urn into which the bones of the dead are put.

Broom
A symbol for wisdom and insight.

Carp
Similar sounding to the word "Business" in Chinese, the carp symbolizes a wish for benefit or advantage in business.

Chrysanthemum
Symbolizes autumn. Its Chinese name sounds similar to the words "remain, nine, and long time." It is best to pick chrysanthemums on the 9th day of the 9th month.

Clouds
Symbolize good fortune and happiness, especially when they have more than one color.

Cock
Wards off evil. A picture of a red cock will protect a house from fire. A white cock placed on a coffin will keep demons at bay. A cock is never to be killed or bad luck will arise.

Conch Shell
Used by Hindus and Buddhists in religious rites or to call together an assembly. It is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.

Crane
Symbol of longevity. It is often shown with other symbols of longevity such as the pine tree. Two cranes flying upward towards the sun has the meaning or wish of "rising high."

Cricket
The cricket symbolizes summer. It also represents courage and a fighting spirit.

Dragon
One of the most complex and multi-tiered Chinese symbols. The dragon is a good natured and benign creature often living in seas, rivers, lakes or clouds. A symbol of male vigor and fertility, the dragon is also a symbol of the Emperor, the Son of Heaven. Paintings often show two dragons playing in the clouds with a ball or large pearl.

Dragon Fly
The Dragon Fly is a symbol of summer.

Eagle
A symbol of strength, an eagle shown perched in a pine-tree is a suitable gift for an older man, wishing him strength of an Eagle and longevity of a pine-tree. An eagle on a rock in the sea symbolizes "hero" who fights a lone battle.

Elephant
The elephant can symbolize strength and astuteness. It is regarded as an animal with very high moral standards and is often shown along with the tiger, lion and leopard.

Endless Knot
Symbolizes long life, eternal love and the interconnection of things. In Buddhism the simple form with no beginning and no end stands for the infinite knowledge of Buddha. It is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.

Feng Shui
The art of placing houses and graves in cooperation and harmonization with local currents of the cosmic breath (Yin and Yang). The dousing rod and astrological compass are used in this process. The placement of symbolic figures on roofs and the pictures of spirits on doors and/or placement of stone images in front of buildings are done to achieve a lucky atmosphere in which the cosmic currents can develop a favorable Feng Shui.

Fish
Fish in Chinese sounds like the word for "Abundance and Affluence" so the fish symbolizes wealth. Fish shown with a lotus blossom symbolize "Year after Year may you live in Affluence".
Chinese Fish Paintings

Five Elements
Shown by the colors green, red, black, yellow and white. Green clouds indicate a plague of insects. Red symbolizes virtue, especially truth and sincerity. Black symbolizes guilt and vice. White indicates moral purity. Yellow is a sign of prosperity.

Golden Fishes
The two gold fish are usually shown head to head and represent fertility as fish produce many offspring. They are one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.

Goldfish
The Chinese words for goldfish are identical with the two words meaning "Gold and Abundance" therefore many Chinese keep goldfish at there homes or in ponds in temple gardens.

Goose
Symbol of married bliss.

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