A powder-blue and underglaze-red dish

The shallow dish with everted flat rim is decorated on the interior with a travelling monk, wearing robes and trousers exposing his bare belly. The figure carries a long pole over his shoulder suspending a bundle and a fly whisk, all reserved on a powder-blue ground with details in underglaze-red. The reverse is decorated with two pairs of bamboo sprigs. The base is marked with a flower head within a double circle.

24 cm diameter


Purchased from Spink & Son, London, 1962

Formerly in the collection of Gaby A. Kety, Louisiana

An identical dish is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, shown on the front cover and illustrated in Christiaan J.A. Jörg and Jan van Campen, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1997, pl. 132, where the author suggests that the figure may be one of the ‘fighting monks’ from the well-known novel Shuihu zhuan.

However, he might also be identified as the monk Xuanzang (600-664), who made a 17-year journey to bring Buddhist teachings from India to China. Xuanzang is often depicted carrying a large bundle containing heaps of Buddhist scriptures on his back when returning to China after his journeys to India.

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