Animals in Chinese art can be divided into three major categories: domestic, wild and mythical. From the hulking water buffalo, to snakes and birds to mythical dragons and enigmatic phoenixes, each animal has its own symbolism.

Whether fantasy or real, animals are a recurring decorative and symbolic element of ancient Chinese art, they are seen as more than part of the natural world. For example, animals within the Zodiac indicate represent personality and destiny. Both real and mythical beasts represent strength, love, wisdom and benevolence amongst other things. Animals also represent the abstract, such as colors, seasons and even directions.

bear_ Han Dynasty Silver Bear Weight

And the artists' interpretation of animals? This is varies greatly - from the highly stylised Phoenix to the realistic portrayal of felines. Some examples, such as the silver Han bear and Warring States water buffalo depict all of the animals' features, even on such a small canvas - demonstrating impeccable skill and unmatched creativity.

All pieces featured will be part of John Nicholson's The Max Lowenson Collection of Chinese Art sale on 11th November. As the director of the Produce Trading Company, Max Lowenson travelled to the Far East. Lowenson became an avid collector of Chinese works of art, with a primary focus on early works from the Han and Tang dynasties. He collected Chinese terracotta and bronzes from the Han, Warring States, Ordos, Dian, Luristan and Tang periods, as well as Jades from the Neolithic period to the 18th century.

Check out the full catalogue here.