Porcelain figure of a god
From Dehua, Fujian province, south-eastern
Ming dynasty, AD 1610
Possibly Cai Shen, the God of Wealth
The kilns at Dehua have been in production for almost one thousand years, from their origins in the Song dynasty (AD 960-1278). In the sixteenth century they became famous for the white porcelain wares known as blanc de Chine. At the time the kilns were producing altar vessels, figures of popular gods and Buddhist sculptures for family religious use. Wares made specifically for export were also modelled in Christian forms, particularly the Virgin and Child. Dehua wares were produced on a very large scale in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), with more than one hundred kiln sites known.
This figure represents a popular Buddhist god. He is thought by some to be Cai Shen, the god of wealth, and by others Guandi, the god of war. The figure is certainly modelled with armour, but is also incised with dragons and floral decoration. The inscription on the reverse of the base translates: 'Made at the wei hour on the renyin 26th day of spring in the 37th year of Wanli [AD 1610]'. Dated pieces of Dehua porcelain are particularly useful in helping to date other examples, as the composition of body and glaze changed very little from the Ming dynasty to the present day.
J. Harrison-Hall, Ming ceramics (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)
S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
M. Medley, The Chinese potter: a practica (Phaidon Press Limited, 1989)