A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE LARGE YELLOW AND GREEN 'AUSPICIOUS EMBLEMS' DISH YONGZHENG MARK AND PERIOD
This exquisitely designed and executed, massive charger of the Yongzheng period (1723-35) is extremely rare and only one companion piece appears to be recorded, although the same pattern was recreated again in the Qianlong reign (1736-95) and some examples are also known from that period.
The highly attractive sancai (‘three color’) glaze combination had been popular with Chinese potters ever since it was devised in the Tang dynasty (618-907), when it was used on low-fired earthenwares, often in accidentally splashed patterns, but already at that time also for more carefully designed decoration with incised outlines separating the colours. This technique, similar to an ink drawing colored with different washes, was masterfully employed on the present dish.
In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when many different low-fired glazes began to be used on porcelains at the imperial kilns of Jingdezhen, yellow and green were often used together, but rarely in combination with brown or aubergine tones. In the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) of the Qing dynasty the imperial kilns revived splashed sancai wares and at the same time began to produce porcelains with incised designs in the sancai palette. While most common in this scheme were small dragon-decorated dishes, which remained popular throughout the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the imperial kilns already created chargers of this large size, decorated with dragons and flower motifs. A dish of that design in Taiwan is included in Kokyū Shin shi zuroku/Illustrated Catalogue of Ch’ing Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum, Republic of China, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1980-81, pl. 34; another in John Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, no. 197; a pair of dishes of this type from the collection of Captain C. Oswald Liddell, formed during his residence in China between 1877 and 1913, was sold in these rooms, 4th December 1985, lot 281, and again in our Hong Kong rooms, 18th May 1988, lots 301 and 302; another from the Morgenroth collection was sold in these rooms, 17th March 2009, lot 117. This Kangxi design became popular again in the Guangxu period, when it was recreated on even larger dishes with chu xiu gong mark, see the dish from the Weishaupt collection sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th October 2009, lot 1621.
The present design appears to have been devised in the Yongzheng reign. It is remarkable not only for the different tones of aubergine to brown judiciously employed in the decoration, but also for the use of these colors to reproduce the variegated skin of Chinese peaches, that can be seen on the outside. While only one other dish of this design, of Yongzheng mark and period, appears to be recorded, at least four dishes of Qianlong mark and period have been published. Although the Qianlong design follows the Yongzheng model very closely, details of the incised pattern have been simplified overall.
The design is also replete with auspicious meanings. The shou character which appears in the center was a frequently used motif expressing the desire for longevity. Dishes with shou characters as the main decoration were made for the emperor’s birthday and special occasions where the theme was longevity, such as the 'Greybeard's Banquet' qiansou yan. Bats were also used as symbols for ‘good fortune’ and five bats were especially auspicious, representing the five blessings of long life, riches, good health, love of virtue and natural death. In the present lot, the five bats encircle the shou character in a popular motif known as 'Five Bats Present Longevity' wu fu peng shou. The 'Eight Buddhist Auspicious Emblems', bajixiang , were originally used in ancient India in religious ceremonies and at occasions such as the enthronement of kings. They represent the offerings presented to Shakyamuni by the gods upon his enlightenment, and entered China around the time of the Yuan dynasty, where they became symbols of good fortune.
Compare the Qianlong dish of this design in the Baur Collection, Geneva, illustrated in John Ayers, The Baur Collection Geneva: Chinese Ceramics, vol. 4, Geneva, 1968-74, no. A 545; and three other Qianlong dishes sold at auction, one in these rooms 28th September 1979, lot 313; another, reputedly from the collection of the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, sold in these rooms, 6th December 1989, lot 217, at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29th April 2001, lot 543, and in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April, 2013, lot 3043; and a third sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 25th October 1993, lot 824, and in our Hong Kong rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 209. A similar Yongzheng dish was sold at Bonhams London, 8th June 2004, lot 119.