Bowls of this form and carved with this motif are unusual; compare a slightly larger spinach-green jade bowl with rounded sides and carved with fish on the interior, from the collection of Heber R. Bishop, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no. 0218.689; one with animal-head handles, sold in our London rooms, 25th July 1950, lot 199; and a much larger example from the collections of T.B. Kitson, S. Bulgari and Enrico di Portanova, sold twice in our London rooms in 1956 and 1961, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th May 2008, lot 1604.
While bowls of this type are referred to in China as washers, they are popularly known in the West as ‘marriage bowls’ on account of their auspicious imagery, which often alludes to felicitous wishes for a long and happy married life. In the case of the present piece, fish are symbolic of connubial happiness as fish are believed to swim in pairs. Twin dish (shuangyu) are also homophonous with the wish shuanyu jiqing (May you be blessed with connubial bliss, fecundity and an abundance of good luck). Furthermore, the handles on this piece are carved with two bats (shuangfu) to indicate double blessings, and resemble two butterflies when viewed from the top to represent a joyful encounter and hence marital bliss.
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