Chinese / Jar / Ming period, Chenghua era, 1465-1487Chinese
Ming period, Chenghua era, 1465-1487

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Jar
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1465
Creation End Date: 1487
Creation Date: Ming period, Chenghua era, 1465-1487
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm); D. 4 3/4 in. (12.1 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.173
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection

Noted for their refined bodies and elegant shapes, porcelains made during the reigns of the Xuande (1426-1435) and Chenghua (1465-1487) emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) are ranked among the finest examples of imperial Chinese wares. Many of the characteristics of 15th-century porcelains result from increased imperial interest in ceramics. Ceramic production during this time--which was the near-exclusive domain of the imperial Jingdezhen kilns in Jiangxi Province--is noted for the development and refinement of techniques for making and decorating wares, experimentation with shapes and designs, and the widespread use of reign marks (inscriptions that identify the name of the dynasty and the reign name of an emperor).

This small blue-and-white jardecorated with a flying-fish dragon (feiyu) has the six-character mark of the Chenghua reign. Painted in underglaze blue, the flying-fish dragon has been interpreted as a reference to China's position as the world's most important seafaring empire in the 15th century. The motif is rare, and seems to have been used in Chinese ceramics briefly during the middle of the Ming dynasty; its appearance has also been related to the tightening of Ming regulations regarding what types of dragons and how many claws were permitted to different categories of officials and other groups at court.

Identified by his wings, fins, and fishtail, this dragon has sometimes been associated with the legend of the wondrous fish-dragon who saved a drowning Tang-period scholar and bore him to the heavens for rebirth as the chief star in the Big Dipper. An image of a flying-fish dragon also was used to decorate a small gui-shaped incense burner found in a temple dedicated to the God of the Northern Skies, suggesting a link between this image and some type of religious practice.

The shape of this jar also distinguishes it from the majority of 15th-century jars. It is one of a small group made between the last years of the Xuande era and the opening years of the Chenghua era that are characterized by a distinctive treatment of their bases and foot rims: on all of these pieces, the underside of the vessel has been cut into small steps leading from the edge of the footring to the center of the base. The reasons for this unique form of base remain unclear; however, it is tempting to speculate that such vessels were made for a group of patrons associated with some religious or secular institution.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 77.
Related Document Description: Joseph, Adrian M. Ming Porcelains: Their Origins and Development. London: Bibelot Publishers, 1971, p. 25.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 67, 75.
Related Document Description: Medley, Margaret. 'Re-grouping 15th-Century Blue and White.' Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society 34 (1964), pp. 93-94.
Related Document Description: Medley, Margaret. 'Style and Symbolism in Underglaze-Decorated Chinese Porcelain.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 405-06.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Important Collection of Chinese Ceramics, the Property of the Late Mrs. Walter Sedgwick (auction, London, July 2, 1968), p. 64.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Hong Kong and Singapore: Hong Kong Museum of Art and National Museum Singapore, 1993, p. 77.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Tokyo: Idemitsu Museum of Arts, 1992, pp. 67, 75.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.173
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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