During the Qing dynasty, three types of white wares are recorded to have been produced: the traditional high-fired wares with a transparent glaze, first created during the Yongle reign of the Ming dynasty, which formed the majority of white wares; soft-paste type wares which were characterised by a yellowish-ivory tinge; and Ding-type wares, which were fired at a higher temperature than the original (see the catalogue to the exhibition Qing Imperial Monochromes. The Zande Lou Collection, Hong Kong, 2005, p. 82). According to the archival records, while some Ding-type wares produced duplicated the colour, form and size of certain Ding wares of the Song dynasty, others only borrowed aspects of their predecessors (ibid, p. 80).
In creating these Ding-type wares, huashi replaced kaolin, allowing the vessel to be fired at a lower temperature to avoid warping of the material and to create a white glaze that could be used for both contemporary designs as well as making objects imitating Ding wares. Its slightly thicker and milky consistency heightens the sculptural effect of the vessel, as evident on this piece.
Vases belonging to this group were produced in various forms and designs; one of baluster form, also with an impressed Qianlong sealmark and of the period, modelled with four handles at the shoulders and decorated with a flower scroll, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 239; and a pomegranate-form vase carved with a scrolling lotus and bat design, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum's exhibition Qingdai danse you ciqi tezhan [Special exhibition of monochrome glazed porcelain of the Qing dynasty], Taipei, 1981, cat. no. 64. Further vases, but with incised marks, include a baluster vase with two deer head-shaped handles and carved on the body with cranes amongst clouds, from the collection of Dr Joseph and Donna Lee Boggs, sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2012, lot 110; another, depicting a lotus pond with egrets, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2012, lot 2129; an archaistic hu vase carved with two confronting phoenixes, included in the exhibition Monochrome Ceramics of Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1977, cat. no. 141; and a bottle vase decorated in relief with a dragon among clouds, offered in our Hong Kong rooms, 3rd October 2017, lot 3603. Compare also a bottle vase decorated with a lotus pond motif, from the collections of L. Allen Lewis, J. Pierpont Morgan and Marsten J. Perry, sold at Christie’s London, 24th and 25th June 1974, lot 108, and again, 11th June 1990, lot 217; and a meiping, richly decorated in high relief with bats, peaches and shou characters, from the collection of Edward T. Chow, sold in these rooms, 19th May 1981, lot 518, and again, 11th April 2008, lot 2507.
The lotus design is rich in auspicious symbolism and reflects the Qianlong Emperor’s strong support of Buddhism. Known in Chinese as hehua or lianhua, the lotus represents qualities associated with Buddhism such as purity and perfection, as the flower rises undefiled from impure muddy waters. It also embodies harmony, summer, longevity, nobility, elegance, curative powers and, when depicted together with buds, marriage and fertility. The eight petals of lotus flowers represent the Eightfold Path of Buddha’s teachings, and Guanyin is often depicted holding a lotus flower with a vase to form the rebus ‘peace’. The choice of white glaze for this has clearly been carefully selected as the colour is associated with the spiritual world and thus divinity and immortals.
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