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Diameter: 9¾ inches; 24.3cm
A pair of famille rose dinner plates with lobed rim and brightly enamelled with a central image of Shoulao carrying a peach and a boy with a tray of peaches.
Shoulao is one of the three Star Gods (Fu, Lu and Shou: happiness, affluence and longevity), though he is much the oldest, having been worshipped by China's first emperor in the third century BC. The other two are not recorded until the Ming dynasty. Shoulao is the God of Health and Longevity and the symbols here are connected: the peaches are from the Garden of Immortality, and eating one will give eternal life. The peach on the tree in this image suggests that it may actually be in the Garden of Immortality.
Shoulao is a popular and revered God, enjoying respect from the Jade Emperor and the Queen Mother of the West, Xi Wang Mu. He was widely worshipped in the Tang dynasty; Emperor Xuanzong set up a special altar to him in the capital, Chang’an (modern Xi’an). He is also known as the Old Immortal of the South Pole, linked with the constellation of Ursa Minor.