Chinese / Dish / Ming period, mid- to late 15th century (probably Chenghua era, 1465-1487)Chinese
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: Dish
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 with glaze
Dimensions: H. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm); D. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.177
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).

The bright red color of this small monochrome dish employs technology that was developed during Xuande's reign and continued into the Chenghua period. The red glaze of this bowl is often called 'sacrificial red' (jihong), and ceramics covered with this glaze are thought to have been used as ceremonial wares during the Xuande era. The surname of the imperial Ming family, Zhu, can be translated as red, and it has been suggested that this was one reason why red was chosen as the banner color for that dynasty. In addition, historical records indicate that red was used as a symbol for the sun and that red bricks and vessels with red glazes were used at the Altar of the Sun (Chaoritan), one of the four main altars designated for imperial sacrifices and ceremonies. The names of the vessels listed for use at imperial altars are those used to describe the shapes of bronze vessels, particularly those of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 1700-221 BCE). However, recent research has shown that during the Ming dynasty, more common shapes such as bowls, plates, and dishes were substituted for vessels in those archaic shapes, and thus it seems likely that this small bowl was used for rituals and ceremonies.

The red color of the glaze was achieved by mixing a finely ground copper oxide into the glaze and firing the porcelain so as to fix the color. Because copper red was so difficult to fire, the creation of a beautiful monochrome glaze was a major advance. Very few vessels of this type were successfully manufactured during the Xuande period, and the technology used to make this particular glaze may have been guarded by one group of potters. The glaze of Chenghua examples such as this piece is blacker than the strong red found in Xuande pieces, suggesting that the precise technology had somehow been lost. It was not until the 18th century that a red close to the Xuande red was again produced. The mottled effect found on the glaze of this piece (and of the Xuande examples) helps to distinguish it from Qing-dynasty (1644-1912) red, which is much smoother in appearance.

Related Document Description: The Arts of the Ming Dynasty. London: Oriental Ceramic Society, 1957, p. 64.
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: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 49, 98.
Related Document Description: Monochrome Porcelain of the Ming and Manchu Dynasties. London: Oriental Ceramic Society, 1948, cat. no. 127.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Catalogue of Important Oriental Ceramics (auction, London, May 28, 1968), p. 39.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.177
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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