Students will locate different symbols on the Chinese Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems, then choose three of their favorite symbols to create on their own paper plate dishes.
Intended Age GroupEarly childhood (ages 3-5)
Length of LessonOne 30 minute lesson
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Students will be able to:
- find meaningful symbols and shapes on the Chinese Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems;
- understand how artists incorporate fine details in their creations; and
- create a dish using paper plates, crayons or colored markers, and ribbon.
- Warm-up: Hold up a rubber band in front of the class and stretch it a few times. Ask the children: What other things can you think of that stretch? Have the children stand up and stretch their bodies. Tell the children that they are going to stretch their creativity today!
- Invite the children to closely examine the Chinese Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems. What designs are their favorites? How many colors can they find? What do the squiggly lines represent (ribbon)? Using the "Details" information from About the Art, point out specific symbols and explain their significance to the children.
- Look at the ribbons and vines and discuss how some artists use lots of fine details like this in their work.
- Invite the children to choose their three favorite symbols or shapes from the Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems to draw on their own dish. Tell the children to hold up three fingers when they have decided on their three symbols.
- Provide each child with a paper plate (or large sheet of drawing paper cut in the shape of a circle) and colored markers or crayons. Have the children draw the three symbols or shapes on the paper plate. Keep the Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems on display so the children can look at it while they’re drawing. If ribbon is available, have children connect the symbols by gluing ribbon onto their plates. If ribbon is not available, have them draw ribbon squiggles with markers or colored pencils. Encourage children to experiment with different twists and turns when connecting the symbols, and to try many different colors.
- Invite the children to share their creations with each other and tell which symbols from the Chinese Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems they used to create their dishes.
- One large paper plate per child
- Crayons or colored markers
- About the Art section on the Dish with Eight Buddhist Emblems
- One color copy of the dish for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Visual Arts
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Envision and Critique to Reflect
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
We do not know who made this porcelain dish, only that the artists at imperial porcelain workshops were very skilled. The fine details of the painted design would have required a very small brush and many hours of work. There were probably several craftsmen who worked on this dish—one may have specialized in outlining all of the decorations, while another filled in the colors. All of these craftsmen worked from a detailed design, made to please the Empress Dowager (mother of the emperor), for whom this dish was made.
This dish is made out of porcelain, a type of ceramic made from clay. The techniques used for making porcelain were invented by the Chinese during the T’ang Dynasty (618-906 CE) and were kept a closely guarded secret for many centuries. Porcelain is different from other types of pottery because of the addition of a special type of clay called kaolin. To make porcelain, an artist fires the clay in a kiln (a special type of oven used for hardening or drying materials) at a high temperature. Once fired, porcelain is delicately thin, translucent, and waterproof. Chinese potters were the first to produce porcelain because they had both large deposits of kaolin and the technical expertise to build high-temperature kilns.
What Inspired It?
A blue mark on the bottom of the dish tells us it was made for a powerful woman by the name of Cixi (TSUH-she) (1835-1908) for use in the Palace for Gathering Elegance, one of her palaces in the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is the name for the Imperial Palace complex located in the heart of Beijing. Cixi was the Empress Dowager and was known for her luxurious lifestyle and shrewdness in politics. Between 1861 and 1908, she could be considered the real ruler of the empire. Though she did not officially rule, she was the most powerful person in the country.
The imagery on Chinese decorative arts is often imbued with wishes of good fortune, long life, prosperity, and many children. The Eight Buddhist Emblems that are depicted on this dish were popular decorative elements during the Qing Dynasty, when this dish was made. The eight emblems are: the Wheel of Law, a conch shell, a victory banner, an umbrella, a lotus flower, a vase, a pair of fish, and an endless knot.
In the inner circle, notice the vase, fish, endless knot, and lotus flower. The outer circle is filled with the victory banner, conch shell, wheel of law, and umbrella.
Holds the nectar of life, symbolizes long life and prosperity.
Symbolizes all living beings swimming freely, just as fish swim in water without fear of drowning.
Represents Buddha’s never-ending love, represents the union of wisdom and compassion.
Symbolizes purity of body, speech, and mind.
Gives protection from all evil and from the lure of evil desires.
Represents the teachings of Buddha that lead to perfection.
Stands for the complete victory of Buddhist doctrine over all harmful forces.
Used to frighten away demons, its sound is sacred and brings good luck.
There are many tiny details to be found throughout this dish, including a variety of flowers. For example, look at the flower near the lotus emblem. Each small blue circle has a slightly different shape and color. Inside the small blue circles are even smaller white circles with tiny black centers. Other details include the pomegranates and peaches. The pomegranate, with its many seeds, stands for a desire to have children. Peaches symbolize immortality.
Ribbons of a variety of colors swirl around each emblem. Notice each ribbon consists of two shades of the same color to help create the look of three-dimensional twists and turns.
The central circle consists of two different kinds of flowers (lotus and chrysanthemum) as well as some vines ending in leaf-like shapes. The vines create symmetrical shapes similar to the shapes on the border pattern. The green areas are finely outlined in black to highlight the forms. This medallion is the only part of the dish that is monochromatic (of one color).
Glaze is a glass-like coating that is applied to a ceramic vessel to make it waterproof and to allow for decoration. This dish has an overglaze, which means colored enamels were fired onto the surface of the glazed vessel.