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Why 8?

Eight has always had an importance in Chinese Lore. There are the 8 Trigrams, The 8 Immortals (Daoist Saints), 8 Scholars Emblems which relate to the Confucian treasures, The 8 Buddhist Emblems, the 8 Pillars of the Heaven, the 8 Rules of Right and the 8 Tetra grams and more sets of 8 can be found. Although 8 is a yin number (belonging to the female) – as are all the numbers – it is associated with the male as it was believed that 8 rule’s the life of the man. At 8 months his milk teeth will arrive, at 8 years he loses those teeth for the more permanent ones, at 2 x 8 he becomes a man but at 8 x 8 he can no longer father children.
The emblems that are used to signify the 8 Immortals and the 8 scholar’s items can slightly alter in the interpretation but the motifs are constant. The 8 Immortals are represented by devices they are supposed to have carried, the fan, the sword, the bottle gourd, the castanets, the flower basket, the bamboo cane, the flute and the lotus. The 8 Scholars items may be reduced in number to 4 or expanded to 14 but the main 8 are; The pearls, the coin (money), the rhombus, books, paintings (scrolls) rhino horn, the musical stone and the Artemisia leaf. While for the Buddhist emblems they are represented by: The bell or canopy, the conch shell, the endless knot, the lotus, paired fish, umbrella, the wheel of law and the vase.

Although those groups are the most common decoration which is found on ceramics and textiles, there are also the 8 Trigrams which are a common device in decoration. These are the entire complex possible of 3 unbroken and 3 broken lines. This device was meant to have originated from the first of the 5 legendary emperors – Fu Xi - who is said to have seen them on the back of the tortoise. The 8 pillars of heaven relate to the cosmology and are connected with the 8 directions, the 8 mountains and the 8 gates through which the rain clouds and the eight winds enter. Frome the NE comes the burning wind, From the E the roaring wind, the SE the cheerful wind, from the S the great storm, the SW the cool wind, from the W comes the wind that lasts, from the NW comes the sharp wind and from the N comes the cold wind.
The picture of the rank badge shows the various buddhist eight emblems, which could just as easily be on porcelain