Chinese / Dish / Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)Chinese
Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Dish
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1403
Creation End Date: 1424
Creation Date: Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain with impressed and incised design under glaze (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 4 in. (10.2 cm); D. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.158
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The history of the Chinese ceramic industry from the late 13th to the early 15th century is one of constant innovation in both technology and taste. Unlike the earlier Song period, during which a wide range of types was produced in kilns throughout China, during the Yuan (1279-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, most ceramics were produced at the Jingdezhen kiln complexes located in Jiangxi Province. Some of the earliest porcelain in the world was manufactured at this complex, the site of some of the most important technical innovations and refinements in the history of ceramics, including the creation of China's famous blue-and-white wares.

Recent excavations at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen have determined that porcelain covered with a warm white glaze, often called 'sweet white wares' (tian bai), were among the most popular ceramics produced during the rule of Yongle (r. 1403-1424), the third emperor of the Ming dynasty. Over 95 percent of the ceramics unearthed from the strata dating tothis period are white wares, suggesting that imperial taste contributed substantially to the production of this type of ceramic. Moreover, Yongle is known to have patronized the construction in 1412 of a nine-story pagoda at the Bao'en temple in Nanjing,and the choice of white bricks to cover this structure further attests to his preference for plainer wares.

This dish, decorated with two dragons among clouds under the glaze, typifies the white wares produced during Yongle's reign, although it is noticeably thinner than the majority of Yongle porcelains. A few examples of eggshell porcelain with impressed decoration have the Yongle reign mark in archaic characters incorporated into their design; the attribution of these very thin dishes to the Yongle period is based on the existence of this mark. However, it should be noted that the footring on this dish is not as precisely rendered as those found on most pieces that date to Yongle's reign.

The long, thin body and face and the short legs of the two dragons impressed into the body of this dish are comparable to early 15th-century depictions of this mythical creature. Three clouds are incised in the bottom of the interior. Difficult to see at first glance, decoration of this type is often termedanhua, or 'hidden decoration,' and was very popular in the early Ming period, at least in part because of the imperial taste for plain white wares.

Yongle's preference for white wares is quite different from the taste for brightly colored underglaze blue and copper-red wares of the late 14th century; several reasons have been proposed to explain this change in imperial taste. White is the color of filial piety and mourning, and it is possible that Yongle's choice of ceramics was partially intended to mitigate the circumstances under which he came to rule: Yongle spent the first four years of his reign publicly grieving for the father whose wishes he had ignored when he usurped the throne. However, white wares were also esteemed during the Tang (618-906) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, and Yongle may have fostered their production to claim a link to this illustrious past.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 72.
Related Document Description: Monochrome Ceramics of Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1977, pp. 112, 139.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.158
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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