These dishes were modelled after contemporary lacquer pieces with the same inscription and represent particularly successful imitations since no part of the footring is exposed that would reveal the white porcelain body. Similar porcelain imitations are also known of covered lacquer bowls and boxes. The present dishes, which are inscribed with a Qianlong poem (1736-95), but bear a Jiaqing reign mark, may still have been made during the Qianlong Emperor's lifetime, after his abdication in 1795, but before his death in 1799. The poem can be translated:
The skill of the lacquer craftsmen from Wu is beyond match,
Their imitations surpass even the works of the ancients.
For their body, do they use any wood or tin?
How they are toiling to create their items without cutting and
These masterpieces compare with those of Xieqing.
The colour one associates with Immortals: vapours of flushed
In all undertakings it is right to imitate antiquity, this needs to be
In my determination to comprehend this, I am startled and become
Imperial brush of Qianlong in the jiawu year.
The poem was obviously composed for the lacquer vessels rather than the porcelain copies. Wu refers to the region of Jiangsu, where much lacquer was produced. The lacquer dishes have a fabric rather than the more common wooden or pewter core and are therefore surprisingly light. Although they do not directly copy earlier lacquer vessels, thin red lacquer bowls in flower shape were already made in the Northern Song period (960-1127). Xieqing is the style name of the landscape painter Lan Shen, who was active during the late Ming and early Qing dynasty, but he may not be the person referred to here. The date is equivalent to 1774.
A lacquer dish of this form, inscribed with the same poem and date, but with the mark da Qing Qianlong fang gu ('Qianlong of the great Qing, imitating the antique'), is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Zhongguo qiqi quanji [Complete series on Chinese lacquer], Fuzhou, 1993-8, vol. 6, pl. 2 (fig. 0), together with a matching lacquer bowl and cover and a box and cover, pls. 3 and 4. Precise copies of the lacquer dishes, with the same Qianlong reign mark, also exist in porcelain, see Zhongguo Guojia Bowuguan guancang wenwu yanjiu congshu/Studies on the Collections of the National Museum of China. Ciqi juan [Porcelain section]: Qingdai [Qing dynasty], Shanghai, 2007, pl. 125, for a piece in the National Museum of China, Beijing, and John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, Geneva, 1999, vol. 2, pl. 249. Another Jiaqing-marked dish was included in the exhibition Zhongguo ming tao Riben xunhui zhan [Exhibition of famous Chinese ceramics touring Japan], National Museum of History, Taipei, 1992, catalogue pp. 234-5.
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