- Museum number
Porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration. This shallow dish with rounded sides and everted rim stands on a low tapering foot ring. It has a sunken centre and corresponding convex base coming to a nipple point. Inside it is decorated in pale shades of underglaze blue with the Three Friends of Winter - pine, bamboo and prunus - arranged around Tai Hu rocks with lingzhi and grasses in the foreground, framed by a double ring. Outside it shows a woman attended by three servants in a garden. She sits on a barrel-shaped stool, holding a square fan. Behind her a maid is standing on the steps of a house or pavilion; in front of her another attendant lights fragrant incense in an incense burner. The third servant faces away from her, holding up a fan. In the distance we can see the five mountain peaks associated with fairy kingdoms and a stellar constellation in the sky. At the end of this scene banks of dream-like clouds indicate a fairy kingdom and frame plants including a pine tree. On the base is a six-character Chenghua reign mark in underglaze blue beneath a typical Chenghua yellow-tinged glaze.
- Production date
Diameter: 20 centimetres
Height: 3.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Harrison-Hall 2001:
Dishes showing the Three Friends of Winter inside and figural scenes outside first appear in the Xuande era (1425-35). Although closely related to those designs, the present arrangement of the pine, bamboo and prunus is more fluid and less regimented and the shades of blue are smoother and softer (see BM 1975.1028.17). Dishes depicting the Three Friends of Winter inside and out have also been excavated with a Chenghua reign mark from the Chenghua strata at Jingdezhen. A deep Xuande mark and period bowl showing an almost identical figural scene outside and plain inside is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Scholars there have identified the scene as an illustration of court ladies from the poem 'qiu xi' [Autumn Evening], written by the late Tang poet and essayist Du Mu (AD 803-52). The poem has been translated by A. C. Graham:
"Silvery autumn candlelight chills the
A little fan of light silk flaps the
Cool as water, the night sheen of the
steps into the sky.
She lies and watches the Weaver Girl
meet the Herdboy Star".
The poem describes a woman watching the Herdboy (in Aquila) and Weaver Girl (Vega) stars cross the Milky Way and meet on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Popular legend tells that the stars at one time visited the earth and in human form were married, but on hearing of this on their return to Heaven the furious Queen of Heaven separated them and banished them to opposite banks of the Milky Way. The King of Heaven was moved by their love for each other and granted them permission to visit each other once a year. This meeting of the stars is still celebrated in Japan in a festival called Tanabata with star ornaments and with parties to view the meeting of the two constellations. The image found on the outside of the dish therefore has romantic allusions and also evokes the idea of absent friends.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: D42 (Sedgwick number)