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Blue and White Plate with Water-Chestnut Flower Rim and Reserved Panels of Birds and Flowers, Zhangzhou Kiln

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Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Dimensions: height: 3 cm; mouth diameter: 21.2 cm; foot diameter: 11.2 cm

This plate has an open mouth, folded walls, a shallow basin, and round foot. The mouth rim is in the shape of an eight-petal water chestnut flower. The interior and exterior of the plate as well as the underside are covered in a translucent glaze, but the bottom of the foot is unglazed. The interior walls are decorated with eight reserved panels in the shape of lotus petals embellished with designs of fruits and various treasures. The base of the interior is painted with eight interconnected arced reserved panels of bird and flower designs; outside the panels are fish-scale and lotus-petal patterns. The exterior walls are decorated with crudely painted circles separated by vertical lines.

Made at the kilns of Jingdezhen, the plate is designed in the Kraak style (Chinese Kelake) intended for the foreign market. From the end of the sixteenth century on through the seventeenth century, these plates were popular in Southeast Asia and Europe. The primary production sites were at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province and Zhangzhou in Fujian Province in China as well as Arita in Japan. In 2004 and 2005, similar blue and white plates were excavated from the Wanli shipwreck (Wanli hao) off the east coast of Malaysia. The ship was part of a Portuguese merchant enterprise active around Macau, Malacca, Goa, and Manila and sank due to an explosion. Sixty percent of the ceramics salvaged from the wreck are plates, saucers, and other vessels for daily use.

The ruins of the Zhangzhou Kiln are located primarily in the villages of Wuzhai and Nansheng in Pinghe County in the municipal area of Zhangzhou, Fujian Province. Written in the fifty-fourth year (1715) of the Kangxi reign (1662–1722) of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the section on “Products” (Wuchan) in Gazetteer of Zhangzhou Prefecture (Zhangzhou fuzhi) describes the kilns of Nansheng as producing ceramics while noting they were not known for exquisite craftsmanship.

Chinese entry by Tang Xuemei
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu


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