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New exhibitions

I’m really looking forward to later today, as it’s not often when I get to preview the opening of 2 exhibitions in the same night.  The first is at The Whitworth Art Gallery and is called The Land Between Us. It’s an exhibition developed by Curator Mary Griffiths that highlights some of the Whitworth’s outstanding collection of historic art alongside recent and contemporary work. Mary blogs at: http://thelandbetweenus.wordpress.com/

The other exhibition opening I’ll be attending is here at The Manchester Museum and also promises to be superb. It’s a touring exhibition called CHINA: Journey to the East and combines some fantastic objects from the British Museum. I know many of our staff, including Curator Stephen Welsh, have put a lot of effort into this exhibition so it should be top notch. Stephen has also just set up a new blog especially in relation to the exhibition at:  http://manchesterkingmonkey.wordpress.com/

I have to say that I find Oriental traditions and folklore of particular interest. Did you know that ancient Chinese folklore has it that frogs or toads are really magical custodians of the secret to immortality – and that they’re are also meant to symbolize carefree enjoyment and spontaneity – don’t know about you but sounds good to me!

Come to think of it, have you ever wondered about those little 3-legged toad figures you see with a coin in their mouths, and what they actually represent? Well I have, so, just now, quite spontaneously :-), I decided to find out… 

According to Chinese legend, apart from getting the blame for swallowing the Moon when there was an eclipse, a 3-legged toad called Ch’an Chu was once a powerful demon that had a strong craving for wealth. It wreaked havoc in the human world until the Taoist Master Liu Hai  managed to tame it with his magic powers. As Liu Hai was fond of giving charity to the poor and helping the needy, the supernatural wealth seeking ability of the toad was just what he required. With the money that the toad gathered everyday, Liu helped countless people to escape from poverty. Thus, the 3-legged toad was revered as a divine wealth fetching creature by the ordinary people. Liu Hai, who was an actual minister in the Imperial government of 10th century China, was proficient in Taoist alchemy but he ended his days in exile.  From these times on, images of Liu Hai and his toad have been considered good luck charms and to represent prosperity. A popular depiction is of the man with his toad sitting on his shoulder. 

In  the Vivarium, we have a small display of small Oriental carvings that includes Gama Sennin, the Japanese equivalent of Liu Hai:

A Feng shui tradition later developed to place a gold or copper image of this toad in your house or shop to bring luck. According to this tradition the toad should face outwards in the day, symbolizing it going out to find money for its owner; and when the night came, it should be turned to face inwards, symbolizing it coming back to spit money into the house. I think I must get one 🙂

Whether it works or not I guess is another story, but perhaps its better to believe that, as where this story originated with Lui Hai, in reality, its the giving to others that’s the sure way to true wealth.

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