An early example of the important position of the ox in traditional society is the use of its scapula as a medium for divination during the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC), as well as its depiction in other traditional areas of art such as painting, jade and ceramics.
In the 18th century Qing dynasty (1644-1911 AD) white nephrite jade carving with orange highlights, depicting a herd boy with water buffalo found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection; or close-up of a brown and white spotted ox with carefree expression from the famous ink and colour handscroll ox painting “Five Oxen” by artist Han Huang (723-787 AD); to the Tang dynasty (618-960 AD) pottery figure included in a tomb for the afterlife, this animal symbolizes prosperity and peace. A new red-glazed (the colour of auspiciousness) version of the ox can be purchased from Jingdezhen today, the town famous for its continuous production of ceramics since the 6th century AD for both Imperial and domestic consumption.
And finally, the classic gentleman/scholar image of the Taoist philosopher “Old Master” Laozi, author of the Tao Te Ching, riding on the back of a water buffalo as he leaves the morally corrupt Zhou court heading West into retirement, found on so many landscape paintings.
What does this year of the ox mean for you? The general predictions for 2021 are all positive. Well-being and peace are forecast in all aspects of life, with a focus on clarification of personal and career goals in a prosperous environment.
Wishing my Chinese friends and colleagues a healthy, happy and prosperous 2021!