Chinese / Stem Cup / Ming period, mid- to late 15th century (probably Chenghua era, 1465-1487)Chinese
Stem Cup
Ming period, mid- to late 15th century (probably Chenghua era, 1465-1487)

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Stem Cup
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1465
Creation End Date: 1487
Creation Date: Ming period, mid- to late 15th century (probably 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 and overglaze red enamel (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 4 in. (10.2 cm); D. 6 1/8 in. (15.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.176
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: 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).

Many of the forms and motifs of 15th-century porcelains can be interpreted as reflections of broad historical or cultural concerns. The mythical winged creatures flying over the waves on this stem cup, painted with underglaze blue and overglaze red enamel, have been interpreted as references to China's position as the world's most important seafaring empire in the 15th century. One of these creatures, a flying-fish dragon (feiyu), 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. Other motifs include winged fish, elephants, horses, and deer, and are commonly found on ceramics bearing reign marks of the Xuande, Chenghua, and Wanli (1573-1620) eras, providing a 15th-century date for the development of this theme.

The appearance of this type of motif has also been linked to the renewed interest in the Classic of the Seas and Mountains (Shanhai Jing) during the Chenghua era. Many of the animals depicted can be identified by reference to this source. For example, it mentions both celestial horses and flying fish. Although the better known and more current recensions of the Classic of the Seas and Mountains date to the Qing period (1644-1912), much of this literature is earlier and can be traced back in some form to the Eastern Zhou period (771-221 BCE). Moreover, several of the Xuande-era examples of this motif have Sanskrit inscriptions written on the interiors of their bases, which suggests a link between this imagery and the practice of Buddhism. Because the motif of mythical and quasimythical creatures flying over the waves appears to have been used primarily on stem cups like this one, and on bowls of high quality, it is tempting to link the development of this theme to some sect of Buddhism and some sort of religious practice.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 78.
Related Document Description: Beurdeley, Cecile, and Michel Beurdeley. A Connoisseur's Guide to Chinese Ceramics. New York: Harper & Row, 1974, p. 192.
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. 69, 75.
Related Document Description: Lion-Goldschmidt, Daisy, and Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard. Chinese Art: Bronze, Jade, Sculpture, Ceramics. New York: Universe Books, 1960, pp. 334, 335.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Catalogue of Important Collection of Chinese Ceramics (auction, London, July 2, 1968), p. 71.
Related Document Description: Valenstein, Suzanne G. Ming Porcelains: A Retrospective. New York: China House Gallery/China Institute in America, 1970, p. 48.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.176
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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