National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Shou Lao, the God of Longevity Chinese Qing Dynasty (artist)
Shou Lao, the God of Longevity, Kangxi period, 1662/1722
porcelain with famille verte enamels on the biscuit
overall (figure): 27.5 x 14 x 9.2 cm (10 13/16 x 5 1/2 x 3 5/8 in.) overall (throne): 12.1 x 16.5 x 10.5 cm (4 3/4 x 6 1/2 x 4 1/8 in.)
Widener Collection
Not on View
From the Tour: Chinese Porcelains
Object 17 of 24

The figure of Shou Lao may originally have been designed for use on a temple or family altar. The seated deity is shown in formal court robes and is recognizable by his tall, domed head and long beard.1 He holds a scroll in his right hand. The figure is decorated in the famille verte palette in yellow, red, aubergine, gold, and two shades of green. The light green robe is decorated with red and gold medallions containing a stylized form of the character shou (longevity). Large cranes (symbols of longevity) are visible in the robe and on the front of the throne. The throne back is decorated with flowers on a light green ground and cranes. A yellow and green diaper ground encloses the ogival medallion with flying crane on the front panel of the throne. The corresponding panel on the back depicts two aubergine peaches (symbols of longevity) with green leaves on a yellow ground.

A standing figurine of Shou Lao decorated in a similar manner is in the Altman collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.2

(Text by Stephen Little, published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue: Decorative Arts, Part II: Far Eastern Ceramics and Paintings; Persian and Indian Rugs and Carpets)


1. For a discussion of Shou Lao in Chinese literature and painting, see Mary H. Fong, "The Iconography of the Popular Gods of Happiness, Emolument, and Longevity," Artibus Asiae 44, 2/3 (1983), 159-199.

2. Edgar Gorer and J. F. Blacker, Chinese Porcelain and Hard Stones, 2 vols., London, 1911, vol. 1, 69.

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