There is a rich history of the use of animal symbols in Chinese furnishings and ceramics. The Chinese studied and understood the deeper meaning of different animals. They used symbols of these animals in art and on furniture and ceramics to call upon the characteristics that they wished to see in their own lives.
The horse is one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and symbolizes speed, power and perseverance. The horse is usually depicted as the bearer of good things. For example, a galloping horse with several scrolls tied on its back represents the bringing of the origins of Chinese culture to the legendary Chinese leader Fuxi. The horse can also be a symbol of the Mongols because their culture is strongly associated with the horse.
Unlike the dragons of the West which destroyed kingdoms, the ancient Chinese believed the dragon brought rain, good harvests and fertility. The Chinese dragon symbolizes benevolence, prosperity, longevity and the renewal of life, and is also one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. When a pair of dragons are placed together but turned away, they symbolize the yin and the yang. A conjoined dragon and phoenix symbolizes the union of a husband and wife, and a dragon with five claws is the symbol of the Emperor.
The Koi is a fish that symbolizes abundance, wealth, and success. Chinese legend tells us of the few, strong and proud koi who swum upstream with the promise of being transformed into a magnificent dragon. This is an allegory for the persistent effort needed to overcome obstacles. These determined fish represent success in academics, scholarly pursuits and high acumen in Chinese symbolism.
Traditionally, birds symbolized freedom and long life in Chinese culture. A parallel is often drawn between a bird and the life experience and wisdom that come with old age. A pair of parrots symbolizes affection, fidelity and deep, enduring love. In the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui, the parrot is a powerful symbol of opportunity and the bearer of good news. It draws positive energy into a space while keeping away the negative. The heron, a majestic and elegant water bird, represents strength, purity, patience and long life.
Now that you have an idea of what these different animal symbols mean, you can use them in your home décor to add a sense of whimsy, or to call upon their symbolic strength to bring their individual characteristics into your own home!