Ao and Crane Porcelain Vase
Beginning in the Tang dynasty, during the ceremony to recognize the most successful candidate of the Chinese imperial examinations, the best student would be called to step on the head of the Ao, a mythical half-dragon, half-fish creature, that was carved in relief onto the steps before the emperor’s palace gates. This tradition of recognizing the top student was described as “Kuixing (god of examinations) points to the one who stands on the Ao’s head.” To “stand on the head of the Ao” came to be used as a reference to a champion or first place winner.
The crane, on the other hand, is known as the highest-ranking bird, symbolizing a top ranking position or rising to the top.
In this art piece, the crane stands on the head of the Ao, conveying wishes for excellent performance in academic examinations.