Marriage bowls, sometimes referred to as water basins or brushwashers, were popular vessels during the Qing period. They are often carved and decorated with a variety of auspicious motifs which offer blessings and good wishes upon a marital union. In the case of the present piece, the two handles in the form of deer with lingzhi are symbolic of longevity, as the deer is the only animal capable of finding this fungus of immortality.
Due to the large number of traditional auspicious motifs which may be used in the decoration of such bowls, accordingly there is a wide variety among marriage bowls. A bowl decorated with archaistic kui-dragons and large butterfly handles, from the collection of T.B. Kitson, was sold in our London rooms, 30th May 1961, lot 441, and again at Christie's London, 12th May 2009, lot 113; and another carved with shuangxi characters, lotus blossoms and supported on ruyi-feet, in the collection of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, is illustrated in Stanley Charles Nott, Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, Tokyo, 1962, pl. CXXVIII. Compare also a censer of similar form, also decorated with taotie masks above lion-head feet and with ringed dragon-head handles, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27th May 2008 lot 1951.
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