Friday, February 8, 2013

Happy Snake Year

This weekend on Sunday, February 10th is the start of Chinese New Year. 2013 will be a Snake Year. In order to honor the occasion, I went through my collection to find some Chinese snakes. 

Recently, I gave a birthday dinner for a friend whose zodiac sign is the snake, and in honor of the upcoming Snake Year. In order to decorate for the occasion, I dug out some snakes left over from Halloween:

Although I forgot to take a picture, in the end that table had considerably more on it, including lots of balloons to make it festive.

I also got a chance to use my favorite ceramic snake platters, reminiscent of old majolica, even if not quite so fine:

Getting back to Chinese snakes, the first one I obtained was this rather elegant bamboo carving of a snake twining through a stump of bamboo:

This coiled wooden snake on a base of carved greenery may have been part of a set depicting the zodiac animals. It is reasonably large, perhaps eight or nine inches tall, and the coils form a hollow on the inside, so it is also possible that this was used as a stand of some sort. I love the simplicity and liveliness of its carving and painting. I have never seen anything else quite like this, and I feel lucky to have acquired it.

This ball of snakes is about five inches across. My favorite part is the way the snake head emerges from the central ball in the second photo.

Babies born in a given animal’s year are often provided with lucky charms to wear as pendants. Here is a boxwood charm showing a baby playing with a snake, a situation not likely to be encountered in reality. 

(Sorry about the photo quality; this was taken under harsh light, and I could not locate the object to re-photograph it.)

I’m not sure what story this votive block depicts, but it looks like an interesting one. The god is standing on a snake, and about to dispatch it with his sword. Note that the god is only wearing one shoe, whose mate is being worn by the snake. I like the naive, folk-art quality of this piece. Incidentally, the god is not holding up a fish, as it might appear. The face is the head of a trophy pelt worn around the waist; usually these represent a lion, tiger, or dragon. The body and tail of the “fish” are a fabric panel from the skirt of his costume. His left hand is holding the scabbard of the sword, or some other attribute, thus the scabbard, animal head and clothing panel are unrelated elements which seem to meld together here.  

Although only one or two of these carvings actually refer to Chinese Snake Year, they can all serve to honor the occasion and help to make this a lucky year. Do you have a favorite among these, or perhaps a special snake in your own collection?

I sincerely wish all of my readers a Happy, Lucky and Prosperous Snake Year.

(All photographs property of the author.)