Dish with poem and design of orchid and rock

  • Porcelain with cobalt pigment under clear glaze
  • 3 x 15.4 cm
  • Jingdezhen ware
  • mid 17th century, Ming or Qing dynasty
  • Origin: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, China
  • FSC-P-4773


Small dish with upcurving sides.
Clay: porcelain.
Glaze: lustrous clear glaze.
Decoration: in cobalt pigment under the glaze, design of orchids beside an ornamental garden rock, accompanied by a poem written in Chinese, consisting of two lines of five characters each.
Mark: On the base is an abstracted signature that may be ornamental.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise A. Cort, 21 December 1999) In the materials and the spare style of decoration the dish appears related to Chinese porcelain decoration of the seventeenth century (late Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644).

This dish is related to the category of Chinese porcelain made for the Vietnamese market that is known as bleu de Hue, after the royal city of the Nguyen dynasty in central Vietnam. In a recent essay, a specialist on this material, Philippe Truong, dates the production of bleu de Hue between the mid-eighteenth and end of the nineteenth centuries, during which time porcelain was commissioned from Jingdezhen in China by the Vietnamese court, which supplied models for decorations and inscriptions. Such pieces bear four-character reign marks on the base. The porcelain bodies are thin and the cobalt is intense blue. Decoration frequently features dragons and phoenixes. Philippe Truong. 1997. "Appendix 2. Bleu de Hue," in John Stevenson and John Guy, eds., Vietnamese Ceramics, A Separate Tradition, pp. 396-401. Chicago: Art Media Resources.

This dish seemingly represents an earlier type of Chinese porcelain made for the Vietnamese market on a commercial basis. In the Freer collection of "export porcelain" (narrowly and precisely defined) it joins the teapot made in Jingdezhen for the Thai market, bearing designs from the Ramakien (Siamese version of the Ramayana) and the Japanese celadon-glazed kendi made for the Indonesian market.

2. (Louise A. Cort, 21 December 1999) The donor, John Menke, purchased the dish "a very long time ago" (he cannot document the precise date) at a sale in the United States of modestly-priced Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, where it was offered as Chinese.

3. (Louise Cort, 11 August 2014) I consulted Bleu de Hue specialst Philippe Truong about this dish. He responded that it was not, since for him, and other researchers such as Tran Duc Anh Son, Bleu de Hue comprises only the Chinese porcelains specially made for Vietnam, namely: - the Bleu Trinh (18th century porcelains with the marks nôi phu thi trung, huu, doai, nam, bac, dong and the Khanh xuân),
- the Bleu for the Nguyen lord (Nguyên Phuc Chu),
- the Bleu for the emperors Nguyên
- the embassy pieces
- and some specific porcelains.

He stated that this dish is characteristic of the South China products for the Southeast Asia export market. Similar pieces can be found in Vietnam but also in other countries of SEA. He dated the dish late Ming to Qing.

He said that the poem is in Chinese, not nom script (for Sino-Vietnamese texts), and he mentioned that nom inscriptions appear only on dishes with one of ten designs.

Changed period from Ming dynasty to Ming or Qing dynasty. Changed Date from early 17th century to mid 17th century.

4. (Louise Cort, 25 April 2017) In the 2017 Kaikodo Journal, object no. 72 is a Chinese blue-and-white dish (diam. 19.7 cm) with a design of a plum tree and a couplet of five charecters each (written as nine and one). The dish bears a four-character Tianqi reign mark (1621-1627) on the base. The commentary illustrates finds of such plates from the Hutian kiln site in Jingdezhen. This sort of ware was not exported to Japan, apparently, but finds of similar dishes in Chengdu, Sichuan province, represent "the remains of city life" among non-elite consumers.

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