This spittoon could have been the smaller, more portable variety that was carried around by Nonyas during their travels for their personal use. It has a wide mouth, bulging shoulders and a tapering body. The decorative motifs on this piece include a phoenix in flight hovering among dark red peony flowers. The phoenix is an auspicious symbol that represents beauty, grace, high virtue, the bride and the empress. Peonies symbolise spring, love, beauty and good fortune. These are set against a green enamelled background which can symbolise youth and spring. Symbols of the Eight Buddhist Emblems form a border pattern at the rim to represent all manner of good wishes. This piece bears the shop mark “Zhen Jing Xu Shun Chang Zao”. Spittoons could be used to hold the remains of chewed betel nut quids, which was a fashionable pastime among Nyonyas. They were also often used as urinals at night, especially as there were no upstairs bathrooms in the homes of the Peranakan Chinese.

Late 19th-early 20th century
Kuala Lumpur, British Malaya
Gross measurement: Dia of mouth: 11.7 cm, Gross measurement: H: 10.9 x Dia of body: 13.6 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
Peranakan Museum
Credit Line
Gift of Sunny Chan Hean Kee