DOPFF, A.J.W.H. de (fl. 18th-century). A Mandarin Duck. Netherlands: ca 1780
Single sheet (7 x 9 inches). A fine original pen and ink and watercolour drawing of a Mandarin Duck, on laid paper, signed lower right 'AJ:W:H: de Dopff fecit' (a bit browned).
The Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata is a perching duck species found in East Asia, and is closely related to the North American wood duck. Mandarin ducks are referred to by the Chinese as Yuan-yang, where yuan, and yang, respectively stand for male and female Mandarin ducks. In traditional Chinese culture, Mandarin ducks are believed to be lifelong couples, unlike other species of ducks. Hence they are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, and are frequently featured in Chinese art.
A Chinese proverb for loving couples uses the Mandarin duck as a metaphor: "Two mandarin ducks playing in water". A Mandarin duck symbol is also used in Chinese weddings because in traditional Chinese lore, they symbolize wedded bliss and fidelity. Because the male and female plumages of the Mandarin duck are so unalike, yuan-yang is frequently used colloquially in Cantonese to mean an "odd couple" or "unlikely pair".
In Korean culture Mandarin ducks represent peace, fidelity, and plentiful offspring. Similar to the Chinese, they believe that these ducks mate for life. For these reasons, pairs of mandarin ducks called wedding ducks are often given as wedding gifts and play a significant role in Korean marriage ceremonies.