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  • Place of origin:

    Jingdezhen (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1530-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Porcelain, throwing, moulding, firing, glazing

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Arqueonautas Worldwide - Arqueologia Subaquatica, S.A.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This porcelain dish was made in Jingdezhen, south east China during the mid 16th century. The central motif of a crab can be symbolic of good wishes for success in the civil service examinations. It was recovered from a Portuguese ship wreck, circa 1558, off the coast of Mozambique, in Africa in 2001. This suggests that Chinese ceramics were already being traded in Africa during the late 16th century.

Physical description

Shallow porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration on the interior, comprising a central design of a crab surrounded by a decorative keyfret band.

Place of Origin

Jingdezhen (made)


ca. 1530-1550 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Porcelain, throwing, moulding, firing, glazing

Marks and inscriptions

Four character underglaze blue mark inside a double square.



Height: 3.2 cm, Diameter: 14.5 cm

Object history note

This objects was recovered from the wreck of a 16th century Portuguese Galleon ship, now known as the Fort San Sebastian wreck of 1558. It was discovered off the coast of Mozambique. This object dates to the reign of the Jiajing emperor (1522-66).

Historical significance: This object illustrates the movement of Chinese ceramics to African lands and illustrates the wider global networks through which Chinese ceramics were traded during the 16th century. It also gives some indication of the appreciation of Chinese ceramics in different parts of the world.

Historical context note

In the course of the 16th century the island of Mozambique became Portugal's most important station in Africa and one of the four most important bases in the empire (others being Goa, Malacca and Macau). Rapidly the island prospered and became the principle centre of African trade and the most important nodal point within the Western empire. Due to the increasing importance if this harbour in 1545 the decision was taken to fortify the northern end of the island with the monumental Fortaleza de Sao Sebastiao. 456 years later and only 480 meters away from this fortress, marine archeologists discovered the remains of an early Portuguese ship. the cargo included a large number of Chinese ceramics, mostly blue and white.

Descriptive line

Cer, China, Ming, blue and white

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bound, Mensun. 'Notes on the excavation report of the Fort San Sebastian Ship, Season 2001-2002 (in process of publication)
Mirabal, Alejandro. (2001) 'Interim report of the Marine Archeological Surevey perfomed in Ilha de Moçambique, from May to July 2001. (www.arq-publications.com)
Portocarrero, Gustavo. (2007) Archival research


Porcelain; Cobalt; Glaze


Throwing; Painting; Glazing; Firing

Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Porcelain; Archaeology

Production Type

Mass produced


East Asia Collection

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