The Chinese Birthday Gifts in 14th – 19th Centuries, Now Exhibited in New York

Chinese legends say that in the Heavenly Palace, the Holy Mother has a garden of peaches, of which a bite would bring a long life. Both the immortals and the mortals want a taste of the magical fruit. Indeed, in Chinese culture, the peach is a symbol of longevity. The durable bamboo and the character of “shou” (壽”) also bare the same meaning.

More than 40 Chinese lacquers of the 14th to 19th Century are now exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (“Cinnabar: The Chinese Art of Carved Lacquer, 14th to 19th Century”). They were all works created as birthday gifts.

With different carvings symbolizing longevity and fortune, these birthday gifts shows rich layers of dark and red. They come in various shapes—as a circular or a rectangular box, as a plate or a vase; and each has its own aesthetics.

Exhibition Hightlights

Box with long-tailed birds and peonies

Tray with Chinese characters, bats, and fruits

Rice measure with Daoist deities

(Pictures: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Exhibition Details

Date: June 25, 2016 - October 9, 2017
Venue: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Exhibition Website


Opening Information of The Met Fifth Avenue

Opening Hours:
10:00 - 17:30, Thursday to Sunday
10:00 - 21:00, Friday to Saturday
Closed on 1 May

1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA

+1 212-535-7710

Admission (Ticket includes same-day admission to The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters):



65 and above




Under 12




(No additional charge for this exhibition)