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Exceptionally Well Preserved, Cute Genuine 15th or 16th Century Ming Dynasty Blue and White Porcelain Bowl. Perfect for Use as a Candy or Potpourri Dish, or Simply for Display.

CLASSIFICATION: (Heavy) Blue and White Porcelain Bowl.

ATTRIBUTION: Ancient China, Ming Dynasty, 15th or 16th Century.


Diameter: 153 millimeters (6 1/8 inches) at top rim; 71 millimeters (2 7/8 inches) at base.

Height: 74 millimeters (3 inches).

Notes: Potpourri or decorative wrapped hard candy available upon request.

CONDITION: Exceptionally good – almost perfectly preserved. A little wear consistent with any household item which is close to five centuries in age. The customary blemishes inherent in hand production of porcelain – warts and dimples, zits and pits. Some hard soil deposits which could be gently cleaned off. Not flawless, but certainly in a very good state of preservation. No breakage or cracks, unrepaired and original.

DETAIL: A splendidly preserved traditional blue and blue porcelain bowl so wonderfully characteristic of Ming Dynasty artwork. This is a very deep bowl, so it would make a wonderful candy or potpourri dish. It is also a very heavy bowl, much thicker than some of the thinner fineware of the era. The glaze is entirely intact, vibrant cobalt blue and off white, and the condition of the bowl is very nice. There are of course a few minor scuffs, marks, dings, etc., testament to five centuries of age, all virtually undetectable. There are no cracks, no breakage, and no repairs. The only “chip” is to the inside rim of the underside of the pedestal. Impossible to see unless the bowl is turned upside down – and even the it is hard to be certain whether it is a chip or a putting blemish. But in either event, it is impossible to see unless you turn the bowl over – and even then it is easy to overlook as it is quite insignificant. Realistically one would expect some blemishes of a bowl five several centuries old (you and I should look so good five hundred years after being "born"), so there are no surprises here except that there are so few blemishes. There are none of the almost obligatory chips along the rim; and there are no cracks at all, hairline or otherwise. This ancient piece of porcelain is truly in exceptional condition!

A few little blemishes are entirely expected of a piece of porcelain 500 years old, we’re only playing the critic pointing out the obvious and inherent indications of age. There are a few production blemishes (warts and dimples, zits, and pits), again really not glaring, and quite typical, almost obligatory of hand-crafted porcelain of the Ming Dynasty. There are a few spots of encrusted soil deposits which could be gently soaked loose with some vinegar and a toothbrush. Nonetheless overall it is an exceptionally attractive piece, and a well preserved specimen of the ancient Chinese art of pottery. If you’d like an authentic ancient blue and white porcelain bowl to proudly display, you could not go wrong with this one. Whether displayed for decorative purposes or perhaps used as a unique candy or potpourri bowl – you can show this off with great pride either at work on your desk or at home. Either way, it will certainly spark interest and perhaps even a little envy! We can even include wrapped decorative candy and/or potpourri upon request so the piece is ready for display or gift giving right out of the box!

HISTORY OF MING CERAMICS: The Mongol Yuan Dynasty’s rule ended with the establishment of a native Chinese dynasty, known as the Ming (1368-1644 A.D.). The Ming period is famous for its decorative arts. Ceramic production increased dramatically, and foreign markets expanded greatly as underglaze blue and red porcelain became increasingly popular for export. In addition, enameling was introduced. A double-fire process was discovered by which an object was first fired at the high temperature needed for porcelain, then painted with the desired colors, such as green, yellow, or purple, and fired a second time. This invention allowed for an almost infinite variety of bright colors to decorate the finest Chinese ceramics. Many new styles appeared, such as the famille wares, which were especially popular in the European markets. In the later half of the Ming dynasty, European traders established direct contact with China and stimulated the ever-growing ceramics market to produce objects with new shapes and designs.

Perhaps the most famous type of ceramics made during this period are the (cobalt) blue and white porcelains. These were white porcelain bodies painted with underglaze blue and then covered with a transparent glaze before firing. Not only produced in vast quantities for imperial use, they were also exported as far as Turkey. While styles of decorative motif and vessel shape changed with each new Ming emperor, the quality of Ming blue and whites are indisputably superior to that of any other time period. Throughout the Ming dynasty, the dragon (representing the male) and the phoenix (representing the female or dragons bride) were the most popular decorative motifs on ceramic wares. The production of “sancai” (three-color) porcelain was also of remarkable quality, especially of human and animal figures, and such pieces remain much sought after even to present time.

HISTORY OF THE MING DYNASTY: The Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) was founded when a Han Chinese peasant and former Buddhist monk turned rebel army leader and overthrew the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. In two purges approximately 10,000 scholars, administrators, and bureaucrats and their families were put to death in an attempt to stabilize the political situation and extinguish the Mongol influence – any possible dissent was exterminated. Imperial power was reasserted throughout China and East Asia, and the former Mongol civil government was reestablished Chinese. Literature was patronized, schools were founded, and the administration of justice was reformed. The Great Wall was extended and the Grand Canal improved. The empire was divided into 15 provinces, most of which still bear their original names.

With its first (Southern) capital at Nanjing, and a subsequent (Northern) capital at Beijing, the Ming reached the zenith of power during the first quarter of the fifteenth century. The Ming had inherited the world’s most powerful maritime force, and China was at the time the world leader in science and technology. However in an attempt to extinguish the memory of Mongol rule, the Ming rejected all foreign influences. Given the stability of the period, it was not difficult to promote a belief that the Chinese had achieved the most satisfactory civilization on earth and that nothing foreign was needed or welcome. For the population of 100 million, there were no disruptions and prolonged stability of the economy, arts, society, and politics. Finding the concept of expansion and commercial ventures alien to Chinese ideas of government, Conservative Confucian bureaucrats and administrators pressed for a revival of a strict agrarian society.

The Chinese emperor forbade overseas travels and stopped all building and repair of oceangoing junks. Disobedient merchants and sailors were killed, and the greatest navy of the world willed itself into extinction. Consequences of this isolationist conservatism included protracted struggles against the Mongols, Japanese pirates ravaging the coast of China, incursions by the Japanese into Korea, and eventually the weakening of the Ming Dynasty. The quality of imperial leadership deteriorated, and court eunuchs came to exercise great control over the emperor, fostering discontent and factionalism in the government. Ripe for a takeover, China again fell to alien forces when in 1644 A.D. the Manchus took Beijing and became masters of North China, establishing the last Chinese Imperial Dynasty, The Qing.

HISTORY OF CHINESE EARTHENWARE: The first Chinese ceramics archaeologists have found date back more than 10,000 years. These were earthenware, which means they were made from clay and fired at the kind of low temperatures reached by a wood fire or simple oven. In China, most ceramics made before the Tang dynasty (600 A.D.) are earthenware. They may be glazed or unglazed, and are occasionally painted, often brightly colored. Stoneware ceramics are harder and less porous than earthenware and are fired at hotter temperatures—between 2100°F and 2400°F. At these high temperatures, the surface of the clay melts and becomes glassy. Although stoneware is usually waterproof, most stoneware ceramics are glazed for decoration. The glazes often contain ash, which allows the glaze to harden at stoneware temperatures.

During the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 B.C.) bronze metallurgy superceded ceramics as the favored art form of the ruling class. However both the ceramic and the bronze industries evolved into complex systems of production that were supported by the aristocracy. Decorative designs rich in symbolism were created first in bronze were then imitated in clay. Chinese burial customs included the tradition of placing clay replicas of material possessions, animals and people in the tomb to accompany the deceased and serve them in the next life. Although archaeological finds have revealed that glazed pottery was produced as early as 1100 B.C. during the Zhou dynasty, the production of glazed wares was not common until about 200 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. However from about 1000 B.C. onwards during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, primitive porcelain wares emerged. Real porcelain wares appeared in the Han dynasty around 200 A.D. In the process of porcelain development, different styles in different periods blossomed.

The production of porcelain became widespread by about 500 A.D. Using a special clay with ground rock containing feldspar, a glassy mineral, the material was fired at very high temperatures above 2400°F. The surface of the clay melts at such high temperatures and becomes smooth as glass. Early porcelains were undecorated and were used by the Imperial court and exported as far as the Middle East. For instance during the Han Dynasty principally celadon (green) and black porcelain were mainly produced. The famous blue and white porcelain was created with blue paint made from cobalt and then covered with a clear glaze, which can withstand the high temperatures of the kiln. The technical and creative innovations of Chinese potters are unique accomplishments in the cultural heritage of the world. Today, archaeological excavation and research in China are revealing new sites and new examples of the genius of the Chinese potter.

HISTORY OF ANCIENT CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Want to know a little more about the history of human civilization in ancient China? Click right here.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. Artifacts are mailed from the USA. Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is only shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. The cost for shipping this item includes delivery confirmation (you can track your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Additional items shipped together do result in a discount. The shipping weight of this item is 2 pounds. Various rates for shipping both domestically and internationally may be viewed here. A wide variety of cost-effective methods are available including surface mail, air mail, and expedited mail.