Thinking about what gift to bring along for an elder’s birthday can be quite a dilemma.
You don’t want to buy something too cheap out of respect, and they always tell us in advance that there’s no need to waste money on gifts. Yet the gesture of giving a gift to a senior no matter the occasion, does not only matter (or not) to the receiver, but also to the other people around as well.
For example, you don’t want a cousin to think that you are an obnoxious cheapskate by bringing nothing to offer a grandparent.
In Chinese culture, one of the most common gifts for an elderly person is a painting that conveys longevity.
They can be affordable, does not convey materialism, can be beautiful for the home interiors, and can symbolically represent a wish for a long life to the recipient.
While there is no default painting called the longevity, various types of graphic depicted in paintings can be deemed as longevity paintings.
If you have decided to get a painting for a senior on his or her birthday, then there are some types of paintings that are very suitable for the occasion.
A thousand words would probably not be enough to do justice to the reverence of the crane in Chinese symbolism.
While paintings of this majestic bird can depicted it in a variety of poses, the best choice for gifts to elders are those that are standing or perched in a relaxed manner.
Cranes with it’s wings open or flying are not preferable as they can represent emotions.
The most prominent linkage of the deer to longevity is the legendary story of the longevity deer which can be familiar to the older generation.
The best deer paintings as gifts are usually those where the animal is painted as grazing in a field of meadow.
For deer paintings that are specifically designed to convey good health and a long life, don’t be surprised to find the fleet-footed mammal colored in an odd gray, white or black. This is a direct reference to the longevity deer.
Other than the fact that tortoises have a naturally long life expectancy, they also have strong connotations in traditional feng shui and divination rituals.
It is believed that the tortoise is a divine creature of nobility, which is further reinforced with the legend of the Luo Shu river map.
Paintings of tortoises meant as gifts often portray the tortoise with an aged man which conveys wisdom. The man is sometimes depicted to be sitting on top of the shell or in a seated position with the amphibian in front of him.
When pictured alone, the tortoise would be standing on land looking out to a pond or lake in the background.
4) Paradise flycatcher
The paradise flycatcher is a bird with a distinctive tail that is almost exclusively designed in artwork as longevity paintings for birthday gifts.
This is because the Chinese name is 绶带鸟 which is a hynomyn for longevity and generation. These two terms obviously associations with a long and healthy life.
Their paintings are sometimes paired with the narcissus flower to convey the meaning of longevity and good fortune.
5) Dragon and Phoenix
These two celestial creatures embodies the two genders of yin and yang.
You won’t find people feeling offended for being given a painting of these creatures.
However, when the life partner of the receiver is still around, the usual practice is to gift a painting with both the dragon and phoenix instead of just one of the two.
6) Butterfly and cat
This is because the Chinese word for butterfly (蝶) sounds similar to the word 耋 which represents an 80-year-old. And the word for cat (猫) sounds the same to 耄 which refers to a 70-year-old individual.
Together this duo is labeled with the term Shou Ju Mao Die (寿居耄耋).
However, take note that seniors can view cats as a bad omen even when there is auspicious calligraphy. So you might want to avoid this painting if you are unsure.
7) Peaches and bats
This painting would consist of 5 bats to symbolize the 5 blessings circling 3 peaches. The latter meant to represent the peaches of longevity.
While a different number of peach fruits is acceptable, take note that they must be exactly 5 bats in this painting.
8) Pine tree
The pine tree is often considered the king of symbolic plants for it’s solidarity and ability thrive under harsh circumstances.
They are very suitable for painting designs for gifts to elders.