Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chinese Antique Thread Winders with Bats

Detail of carved bat.
Congratulations to Rosemary and to Mariette for correctly identifying the Mystery Object as a thread winder or spool. These wooden winders are two to four inches long, while smaller ones, beautifully worked from mother of pearl, often resemble game counters. Winders are often adorned with flowers, butterflies, fish, or geometric shapes, although readers here can readily imagine that I was pleased to find the bat motif.

This winder has a pattern of two bats on each end, facing a peach, the symbol of longevity. As the Hattatts reminded us, bats are a Chinese symbol of good fortune, so although I know of no special connection to thread or sewing, it is not surprising to see this figure turn up. 

The reverse of the winder shows a repeat of the same pattern.
I was lucky enough to acquire an additional example of these bat-carved thread winders. This other one is somewhat different. The spool section is deeper, and the carving is open or pierced. There are only two bats on each side, facing the center, and their auspicious symbolism is augmented by that of the coin placed in the middle.

As before, the carving on the back duplicates that on the front. Note that the coin has changed into a longevity symbol.

It is difficult to decide which one I like better—the second example is quite graceful with its openwork filigree, but the solid first one, with eight bats in total, has to have one of the highest bats-per-square-inch ratios for an object its size. They both show signs of considerable use, and the gilding on each is almost gone. They must have been quite dazzling when new, although possibly I prefer their current worn and patinated condition.

Reader Dianne in the original post mentioned Bat Conservation International, and I had a fascinating time perusing their site. I strongly recommend taking a look at their website to learn more about actual bats and about the various problems, natural and human, that currently threaten them.

(All photos and original objects property of the author.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chinese Mystery Object with Bats

It has been a while since I posted a Mystery object.  I have tried to select one a little less obscure than before; these household objects are still in use, and have a practical function.

This is made out of wood, and is about three inches long. Other forms are common, but many still look like this, although perhaps without the decorative carving.

If you know or can guess what this is, please let me know in the comments. Comment Moderation will be turned on for this post. If your solution is correct, I will withhold it until the end, to allow others a chance to guess.

The answer will be revealed in a few days. Good luck!