The spinach jade brush holder is carved in the shape of a pine trunk with a crane perched on it. The tree is recognizable by the presence of pine needles, which are common in Chinese iconography. The pine is one of the “Three Friends of Winter” along with the plum blossom and bamboo. Its resilience during winter makes it a symbol of longevity. The carved crane rests on a root emerging from the ground. This bird, along with the phoenix, is among the most depicted in the Chinese bestiary. It symbolizes wisdom and the elevation of the spirit, while also echoing longevity, because the Immortals rides cranes in the Chinese legends to access Heaven. Four lingzhi mushrooms, or mushrooms of immortality, three of which are at the base of the object and one carved on the crane’s beak, complete the symbolism of longevity. This small scholarly object perfectly embodies Taoist thoughts related to man’s encounter with the challenge of time.
Bibliography:The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Jadeware, vol. III, n°51, p. 63. (Qing Dynasty spinach green jade flower vase with crane, bamboo and prunus with similar carving)