Antique Porcelain Bowl
Item No. 1076
17th - 18th Century, N/A, China
1.25" x 0" x 0"
( 3.175 x 0 x 0 cm)
(H x W x D)
This is alate 17th or early 18th century export version of our #1073, which was produced for the domestic Chinese market. Please notice the difference in the quality of the cobalt blue used in the two pieces, the much better quality being used for the domestic Chinese market. Moreover, there seems to have been less attention to detail in firing this piece, as the piece is not really a porcelain white but, rather, a dirty gray. The symbolism and meaning of the plate would have been well known in china. However the fact that this piece was discovered in Indonesia means that it was exported for its decorative characteristics and that its meaning would not have been undersood (see the writeup for #1073 below:
This 17-18th century porcelain underglaze blue and white plate has a round ball-like central motiv from which organic, mushroom-like shaped areas seem to radiate and twist in a counter-clockwise direction. It is actually the center blossom of a flower that radiates outwards to the end of the plate with two more rows of organic petal-forms much like lotus petals within which are painted alternating floral sprays of water hibiscus and "lingzhi," the sacred fungus or mushroom. The lingzhi is a pun for intelligence, a symbol of long life and, because it is in the similar shape to the head of the ruyi, the wish-granting wand, it means "as you wish" or "may yoyr wish be granted."
The following quote from Terese Tse Bartholomew is even more instructive:
"The lotus... is the flower of the sixth month, the flower of summer. It is the Asian symbol of purity because the flower emerges from the mud unstained. Buddhist and Hindu deities sit on thrones of lotis blossoms for this reason.
The different parts of the lotis bear auspicious meanings. The flower, known variously as hehua or lianhua, symbolizes marriage in addition to purity. He is a pun for "harmony" (he), and lian a pun for "continuous" or "successive," as in "the continuous birth of illustrious sons." The lotus is one of the few plants whose seedpod is already evident when the flower begins to bloom. To the Chinese, this excellent omen augurs the early arrival of sons. The seedpod (lianfang or lianpeng) bursting with seeds symbolizes fertility. The lotus rhizome (ou)is a homophonous with "married couple." The lotus leaf (heye), like the blossom, is a pun for "harmony."
Among the lotus's many names is "water hibiscus"(shuifurong), whose second character is a pun for "wealth" (fu). It is also known as qinglian, a pun for "incorruptable' (qinglian) officials. Zhou Dunyi notes in his essay Harmony and Unity (Ailian shou) that the lotus is said to be "the gentleman among flowers."
In conclusion, the symbolism on this dish makes it likely that it was used as a marriage gift with the meaning "may this couple have a harmonious, pure and prosperous marriage with an early and continous succession of intelligent,illustrious and wealthy official-sons who are granted a long life.