First introduced in the Yuan dynasty, the distinctive ‘water caltrop’ shape can often be seen on blue and white wares produced during the Yuan, as well as the Yongle and Xuande periods in the Ming dynasty. Thriving trade across Eurasia along maritime and overland routes from the Yuan to the early Ming dynasties suggests the ‘water caltrop’ form to have drawn its inspiration from Central Asian metalwork and pottery, some of which were produced for the Muslim market. The seven westward maritime expeditions led by the eunuch Zheng He for the Yongle Emperor not only facilitated the export of Chinese ceramics and silks, but brought back on his returns treasures and curiosities from regions associated with the exotic, records of which offer a glimpse into the fascinating history of global exchange in the period.
Other examples of this rare bracket lobed form include a dish dated to the Yuan dynasty in the collection of the Museum Fur Ostasiatische Kunst Der Stadt Koln, illustrated in Meisterwerk aus China, Korea und Japan, Museen der Stadt Koln, 1979, p. 50, no. 48; and another of similar form in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum, illustrated in Hai-wai Yi-chen, Chinese Art in Overseas Collections: Lacquerware, 1987, no. 42. Compare also a smaller dish sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30th April 2001, lot 627.
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