Stemcup with sea creatures

From Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, southern China
Ming dynasty, Xuande period (AD 1426-35)

Dragons and other creatures frolicking in the waves

The short reign of Emperor Xuande (1426-35) was very significant for Chinese ceramics: copper red wares reached heights which have never been surpassed, while underglaze blue decoration combined careful composition and brilliant colour.

Stem cups like this were used in Buddhist ceremonies and as wine bowls. This example shows dragons and other sea creatures playing among the waves. The sea creatures were reserved, that is, the background was painted with blue, and the area with the creatures was left white. The piece was then glazed and fired in the usual way. This is a relatively simple but very effective technique.

The regular use of the emperor's reign mark denoted a new status for ceramics. This first appeared, though rarely, under the Yongle emperor (reigned 1403-24). The mark on this cup is centred on the inside of the bowl.

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More information


J. Harrison-Hall, Ming ceramics (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)

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


Diameter: 6.200 inches

Museum number

Asia OA 1938.7-12.1


Gift of A.D. Brankston


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