Shell with Hong Kong Harbor Scene

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The harbor view is to some extent realistic and aims to document people, ships and landscape elements. The two large blossoms positioned at the shell’s lower end relate to local flora and fauna. Roses were common garden flowers in Southern China and were documented in Guangzhou-made watercolor albums with botanical illustrations from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the shell painting the flowers serve documentary and decorative purposes and do not necessarily evoke the auspicious meanings commonly attributed to plants in the Chinese bird-and-flower painting genre. They embellish an oyster shell, which is an everyday thing in Hong Kong, often considered garbage, but in this painted version shines as a beautiful example of ‘tourist art’.

This story was built with support of the Research Grant Council project Ocean Objects: Maritime Material Culture in Southern China from a Global Perspective (GRF 12603017)