I would now like to add some additional colour to the life story of Ivor John THOMAS: the golden colour of polished brass to be exact.
Sometime during his residence in China, Ivor spotted and coveted a pair of circular embossed and textured brass disks, each mounted on their own black wooden fret work stand. He found them in a shop belonging to a Chinese merchant who was very reluctant to sell them to Ivor in spite of repeated attempts. So being persistent as well as a strategist, Ivor carefully planned to arrive early on the first day of the Chinese New Year, having heard of their belief that it would bring the merchant a year of bad luck if he did not make a sale to the first customer of the year. And of course the discs were the only items in the store that Ivor wanted. I'm sure it took a great deal of haggling, but in the end money changed hands (we don't know how much) and Ivor walked away with his two discs and their stands. They certainly became treasured items in Ivor's home in China.
Upon his retirement, Ivor brought both disks to Canada. Then, after he and then his widow Lily Mary died, one of the mirrors was given to Terry's mother Joyce, and the other to her sister Agnes (she later sold hers). In turn, Joyce's disk was passed down to Terry. This beautiful family heirloom now graces the hearth in our living room.
Our disk is quite large and heavy, measuring almost 18 inches (just over 45 cm) in diameter and needing its wood stand for support. Its shiny golden front face is embossed with a very pleasing and intricate design depicting nine "foo dogs" in various sizes and poses. A larger centre pair of dogs is unevenly ringed by seven smaller ones, and it looks like some of them are romping or chasing one of four round balls. The Chinese believe that these animals, also known as mythical Chinese guardian lions or fu dogs, offer powerful protection for a home or business. For centuries, they have carved pairs of foo dog statues, one male and one female, to guard the entrances of palaces, temples and homes for protection as well as symbols of status and power. So with the images of nine of these creatures on our mirror, surely it must offer us an abundant amount of protection and good fortune.
The back of this disk, although much duller and darker, is also decorated with relief castings of small and stylized figures, flowers, temples, birds and other objects. Around the small center point are two small curved dragons, each chasing a pearl as well as the tail of the other dragon. Four different Chinese characters have been positioned at the four compass points amid a field of other figures, each on its own framed square. We have tried to find out what these characters mean, but have been told they are written in a very old style of character, and no one so far has had success in deciphering them. If anyone can translate these for us from the following images, we'd be very grateful.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
Examples of other Chinese Mirrors - "Invaluable" auction site
Another large Chinese Mirror used as a gong - Rendells Fine Art auction site (scroll down)
Chinese Guardian Lions (Foo Dogs) - wikipedia
Fu Dogs and Feng Shui
Old photos of Shanghai - Virtual Shanghai site
I have posted additional information on Terry's THOMAS families elsewhere on this website.
"52 Ancestors" is a reference to the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge I am participating in.
Reference the No Story Too Small blog by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow for more details.
It is giving me the much needed incentive to write and publish my family stories.