Some of the more interesting designs are found on the Flower and Season tiles which, unlike their modern counterparts, do not actually show flowers or depict seasons, except elliptically.
One often comes across tiles that show occupations associated with each of the seasons.
Here’s an example taken from the banner of my website:
The tiles actually have the colour of bleached bone but are tinted gold for effect
1. Spring is a fisherman, representing common sense and patience. His good management brings prosperity for all.
2. Summer is a woodcutter, who represents success through activity. His chopping of firewood relates to three of the elements of Chinese philosophy: fire, wood and metal – fire being the dominant one of vitality, ambition and industry.
3. Autumn is a farmer, who represents the physical, arduous labour involved in bringing in the harvest – showing the effort to get the job done gives rich rewards.
4. Winter is a scholar (namely Confucius) who represents a prudent, cultured mind turning toward literary or artistic work when little can usefully be achieved outdoors.
But my set contained unusual figures – Chinese warriors.
So far my researches have not produced an explanation for these designs.
The Chinese characters in the upper left hand corners are the same as those found in my banner tiles.They give the names of the four seasons and are painted red by convention.
The Flower tiles did have more recognisable designs. There’s a strong link to prosperity…
1. A Rich Man (or ‘Zhao Gong Ming’, a Daoist god of wealth) with a gold ingot in one hand and a magical iron whip in the other. He’s sitting in an ornate chair.
2. The Rich Man’s pot of gold (or, more correctly, his basin filled with treasure). The three Chinese characters on the pot mean ‘basin’, ‘treasure’ and ‘together’.
3. The Goddess of Mercy, ‘Guan Yin’ (‘Kwan Yin’). She’s depicted with a water jar in the right hand, a willow branch in the left, and wearing a Buddha crown.
4. The ‘Monkey King’ wearing a golden chain mail and phoenix feather cap. He walks on clouds. In the book ‘Journey to the West’, ‘Guan Yin’ enlisted the Monkey King as a bodyguard for the monk ‘Tripitaka’.