The material used for the making of white-glazed porcelain wares of this type is distinctive. It is a Qing innovation whereby huashi replaced kaolin, allowing the vessel to be fired at a lower temperature to avoid warping of the material and to create a rich creamy-white glaze that could be used for both contemporary designs as well as making objects imitating Ding wares. Further vases belonging to this group, also incised with a six-character seal mark of Qianlong, were produced in various forms and designs; see 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; a vase of baluster form, with two deer-shaped handles and carved on the body with cranes amongst clouds, from the Estate of Dr. Joseph and Donna Lee Boggs, sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2012, lot 110; and a vase with a compressed globular body, decorated in relief with a five-clawed dragon, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3rd October 2017, lot 3603. Vases of this type with an impressed Qianlong mark were also produced; see one of baluster form, modeled with four handles at the shoulders and decorated with a flower scroll, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 239; a pomegranate-form vase carved with a scrolling lotus and bat design, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 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; and a pear-shape version carved with lotus blooms, sold in our London rooms, 10th December 1991, lot 280, again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 2nd November 1999, lot 528, from the collection of Robert Chang, and a third time in our London rooms, 8th November 2017, lot 17.
The vibrant design on the present vessel is rich in symbolism. The sinuous dragon, emblem of the emperor, represents wisdom and power, whereas its harmonic counterpart, the soaring phoenix, symbol of the empress, signifies immortality and resurrection. Such symbolic union was commonly used to decorate imperial objects starting from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and continued to prevail in the Qing court where they were used on vessels made in various media.
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