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  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Porcelain, decorated with cobalt blue

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery, case 64

This magnificent mid-Ming period blue and white vase is actually one of a pair, its companion piece being owned by the Musée Guimet in Paris. Before being exported to Europe, the pair of vases had probably stood for hundreds of years on a temple altar in China. It is likely that they were part of a set of altar vessels, for a number of similar examples are known, some bearing inscriptions. Such sets were also made in bronze, although from early times pottery was substituted for metal. Well potted and skilfully painted in light, clear cobalt blue, the form of the vase was current around the year 1500. The lotus panel around the foot, the cloud collar on the shoulder and the plantain leaves on the neck and handles are further indicators of such a dating. The most interesting section comprises the band around the body, which has a lively design of dragons with flaming pearls above waves. The dragons are unusual, for they have webbed, bat-like wings and fins. By the mid Ming period, a whole variety of new dragon types had begun to appear in Chinese art.

Physical description

vase with narrow, pear-shaped body, trumpet mouth with straight mouthrim, and animal-mask handles on neck. Very thickly potted with lustrous blue-white glaze, and fresh blue outline and wash cobalt painting. The decoration includes flying dragons, lotus panels, plantain leaves, waves. The handles decorated with strapwork, emerging from blue animal heads. The carved foot is unglazed.

Place of Origin

China (made)


late 15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Porcelain, decorated with cobalt blue


Height: 67 cm

Descriptive line

Blue and white porcelain altar vase, Ming dynasty, late 15th century, chinese.




East Asia Collection

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