Doucai vase

From Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, southern China
Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period (AD 1723-35)

The Chinese term doucai means 'joined colours' or 'contrasting colours'. The production of doucai wares was technically difficult and required two firings: the design's outline is painted in underglaze blue, the piece is glazed, then fired at a high temperature. The outlines were then coloured in with red, yellow, green and aubergine overglaze enamels, and the object was fired again at a lower temperature.

Doucai enameling was invented in the early fifteenth century and perfected during the reign of the emperor Chenghua (1465-87). Very little doucai was produced in the middle and late Ming dynasty, though some pieces do survive - mostly copies of Chenghua period pieces. However, the technique was revived in the eighteenth century. The later wares are technically finer: the porcelain is a purer white, and the enamels more clear and with a broader range of colour. The Chenghua wares are more highly valued by connoisseurs for their tactility and subtle charm.

This vase, which dates to the reign of Emperor Yongzheng (AD 1723-35), is a very good example of the technical perfection in later doucai wares. The main design comprises green, yellow and mauve dragon medallions. The dragons are five-clawed, whose use was restricted to the emperor. Auspicious Buddhist emblems decorate the shoulder of the vase.

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More information


S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)


Height: 9.500 inches
Diameter: 6.800 inches

Museum number

Asia OA F.338


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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