Lot 2802
  • 2802


40,000 - 60,000 HKD
68,750 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Stoneware
  • 13 cm, 5 1/8  in.
exquisitely modelled with hands resting in the mudra of meditation, dhyanamudra, dressed in a plain robe moulded with naturalistic folds opening at the chest and flowing over the folded legs to cover the edge of the seat, wearing simple bracelets and a ribbon tied across a gently swelling belly, the fragment truncated at the chest and below the seat to preserve a single lotus bud 

Catalogue Note

Masterfully modelled and covered with an excellent shiny white glaze, this figure is extremely rare and interesting. It provides valuable new insights into one of the most famous types of Chinese ceramics, ‘Ding’ ware, consistent with recent archaeological finds at the kiln sites. The torso probably belongs to a figure of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, Guanyin, historically one of the most popular and most favoured Buddhist deities in China. Since it is stated in Buddhist sutras that anyone who recites the name of Avalokitesvara during times of distress would be heard and rescued by her, she is the most worshipped Bodhisattva in Buddhism. Guanyin has therefore been frequently depicted in sculptural form, including in ceramics. It is extremely rare, however, to find a Guanyin figure with white glaze from any of the northern kilns, since most known figures from the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties are covered with either a qingbai (‘bluish-white’) or a celadon glaze and to derive from the Jingdezhen kilns in Jiangxi or the Longquan kilns in Zhejiang province, respectively, both in south China.

This exceedingly rare white porcelain figure can be attributed to the Ding kilns in Quyang, Hebei province. Ranking among the Five Great Wares of the Song dynasty (960-1279), the Ding kilns are world famous for their various types of white porcelain vessels. Although they are also known for some sculptural items such as pillows in form of a boy or a lady, examples of which are preserved in the Palace Museums in Beijing and Taipei, Ding potters made very few religious figures.

However, a fragment of an arhat head has recently been discovered at the Ding kilns during excavations carried out jointly by the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University and Hebei archaeologists, demonstrating that Buddhist figures were made at the Ding kilns. The head is very comparable to a white porcelain arhat in the collection of the Tongliao Municipal Museum, Inner Mongolia, probably also made at the Ding kilns. The two pieces are illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Ding Ware: The World of White Elegance, Recent Archaeological Findings, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2013, cat. no. 23, and accompanying reference illustration.

Such figures are extremely rare at auction and only one ‘Ding’ ware seated Guanyin, holding a lotus bud in both hands, appears to have been sold in our London rooms, 5th July 1977, lot 146, and again 9th June 1992, lot 111.

Much more common are comparable qingbai-glazed figures, such as a seated Guanyin depicted in a very similar posture and wearing similar garments as the present piece and with both hands in similar mudra, sold in our London rooms, 19th June 1984, lot 214, again at Christie’s New York, 4th June 1987, lot 231; another Guanyin seated in a shrine, with a similar mudra but holding a string of prayer beads, sold in our London rooms, 1st/2nd  April 1974, lot 176, and again in these rooms, 5th November 1996, lot 671. The present figure is also very close to an unusually large qingbai Guanyin, with a different mudra, sold in these rooms, 24th November 1987, lot 16, and again in our London rooms, 9th November 2005, lot 247, illustrated in Sotheby's Hong Kong – Twenty Years. 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 15, and again in Sotheby's. Thirty Years in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2003, pl. 114.