character 'shou' as written in grass script as one continuous stroke of a brush

Stylized Shou Character, c. 1800

Unknown artist, expand_more

Steamed bambooexpand_more

Gift of Ruth and Bruce Daytonexpand_more  96.97.15

Beginning in the late Ming dynasty, the Chinese character for longevity, pronounced shou, became a common auspicious symbol. It was written as a large single character on hanging scrolls, embroidered on clothing, painted on porcelain, and even decorated birthday presents. To the literati, advanced age meant wisdom, accomplishment, refined sensibilities, determination, and endurance. This rather bizarre object, made for the scholar's table from a convoluted piece of bamboo, approximates the shape of the shou character.

The same stylized character appears at the center of the small dish shown here. Dated by inscription to the Jiaqing era (1522-66), this early example of overglaze enamel depicts the shou character as a flowering peach tree. Peaches were a standard Daoist motif for long life, so the saucer emphasizes longevity in two ways.

Stylized Shou Character
Accession Number
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.

character 'shou' as written in grass script as one continuous stroke of a brush