Prunus Vase with Blue-and-White Designs of the Eight Immortals Made in Wanli's Reign of Ming


The themed design of this vase is a story painting of the Eight Immortals. The eight immortals hold their magical instruments in natural and distinctive bearings. They are set off by hills, trees, grass and flowers of the background both in the front and back.

Stories of the eight immortals originated from the Tang Dynasty. Figures of the Eight Immortals with unfixed names began to be presented in zaju (a form of Chinese folk opera) of the Yuan Dynasty. They were confirmed as Zhang Guolao, Lv Dongbin, Han Xiangzi, He Xiangu, Iron Crutch Li, Han Zhongli, Royal Uncle Cao and Lan Caihe by Yuan Tai in his A Journey to the East. Different from quite a few other immortals of Taoism, the Eight Immortals were not born to be immortals. All of them were once human and had different but colorful lives in the mortal world. The design of the Eight Immortals is a typical design used for embellishing porcelain, which had been put into use in Longquan Kiln porcelain since the Yuan Dynasty. Emperor Jiajing of Ming was obsessed with Taoism. Thus the design of the Eight Immortals prevailed further more.