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Longevity spirit money from Taiwan

Accession Number
2008/1.171

Title
Longevity spirit money from Taiwan

Artist(s)
Taiwanese

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
orange paint, imitation gold foil, and red ink on paper

Dimensions
6 5/16 in. x 5 1/2 in. ( 16 cm x 14 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Ellen Johnston Laing

Label copy
In Chinese popular religion, “longevity” money is used exclusively in the worship of deities to celebrate their birthdays, or to ask for long life or other benefits. To produce the “spirit money,” the carved images on this block would be printed in red over a patch of gold foil placed on top of a wide orange-colored swatch painted on coarse paper.
Some of the decorative motifs seen here convey good omens and good wishes through a grouping of seemingly unrelated items which form pictorial puns. The combination of a stylized bat, shou (“long life”) character, and two coins suspended from the bat’s wings sends the four-character message “blessings and long life” (fushou shuangquan). The pronunciation of the character for “bat” (fu) is identical to that for “blessing,” while the two ancient coins (shuangqian) are a pun for “completeness” (shuangquan). The large character for “longevity” (shou) in the center replaces the customary peaches of long life.
(Label for UMMA Chinese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
“Longevity” money was used exclusively in the worship of deities to celebrate their birthdays, or as a means of thanking them for blessings already bestowed, or to ask for long life or other benefits. In addition to the large character for “longevity” in the center, the four characters at the top right, center, left, and at the lower margin express wishes for sons, emolument, wealth, and honor. A “double happiness” character is in each lower corner. Two coins are suspended from the wings of a stylized bat, a symbol of happiness because the pronunciation of the character for “bat’ (fu) is identical to that for happiness. To produce the “spirit money,” the carved images would be printed in red over a patch of gold foil placed on top of a wide orange-colored swatch painted on coarse paper.

Physical Description
Woodblock print with red floral design framing an inner square that contains six characters in the top and lower right, center, and left corners and a large character ("longevity") in the middle with an image of two coins suspended from the wings of a stylized bat in the lower center. Swath of orange paint and imitation gold foil in the middle.

Primary Object Classification
Print

Primary Object Type
color print

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
bats (game equipment)
money
printing (process)
printing blocks (printing surfaces)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved