A small blue and white dish

Jiajing mark and period (1522-1566)

The shallow dish with rounded sides and flaring rim stands on a short tapering foot. The slightly domed centre is painted with four interlocking ruyi heads enclosing a small flower spray. The cavetto is decorated with the eight Buddhist symbols supported on lingzhi, the reverse with two bagua roundels and six cranes in flight amidst detached cloud formations. The base is inscribed with a six-character reign mark.

14 cm diameter



A German family collection, acquired prior to the 1920s.

The eight Trigrams, bagua, on Jiajing ceramics are related to the practice of Inner Alchemy. The two trigrams shown on this dish stand for earth (kun) and heaven (qian). The combination of cranes amidst clouds and the bagua is one of the highly inventive decorative motifs of the Jiajing period. Cranes were particularly valued by Daoists as their presence at rituals was regarded as signaling the descent of celestial beings from heaven. The lingzhi fungus was conceived as an auspicious sign and food of immortality in ancient China. Because the fungus resembles the head of the ruyi, a wish-granting sceptre, it symbolizes wish-granting and longevity.

Typical of Jiajing ceramics is that the underglaze-blue patterns are sometimes blurred and smudged as can be seen on the eight symbols in the cavetto of this dish. This may be due to the large and dense air bubbles or can be related to problems in the firing temperature.

A pair of Jiajing dishes of this unusual shape from the Huaihaitang Collection was exhibited at the Art Museum of the Hong Kong University. A Chenghua mark and period dish with the Eight Buddhist symbols in the cavetto, but supported on lotus heads, is in the Percival David Collection.

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