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Imperial Double-handle Vase



Height: approx. 44cm | Width: approx. 18cm | Condition: Mint


Modelled after a similar vase crafted during the late Qing Dynasty, the cracked porcelain vase depicts a Phoenix and two Dragons playing with heavenly pearl. The Dragon is a mysterious mythical creature and a symbol of greatness that the Chinese take pride in since its creation. It is often depicted with the aura of strength and power. Chinese saw dragons with so much respect that each detail of the dragon was vital. In the Ming and Qing dynasties the number of claws the dragon had was an imperial matter and not to be fooled with; the five-clawed dragon was strictly for the emperors and forbidden from the commoners’ kiln. Also, the power of the dragon is believed to be bestowed upon their emperors by Heaven and thus their rulers are called “真龙天子” (Read: Zhen Long Tian Zi, Meaning: Heaven’s true Dragon son). The features of the Chinese dragon have varied through dynasties, seemingly to reflect artists’ perspectives of the economy or strength of the country during the era. For instance, on this vase, the skinny snaking horned dragon with five claws is iconic to the late Qing period. This horned dragon is also a common motif used by the Jing De Zhen Imperial Factory. As China was going through great reforms during Qing, the period of change greatly threatened the country’s stability. Many pieces then, like on this vase, visually depicted late Qing as a weaker skinny dragon. Despite its variety in design, from the horned dragon to the ridge-less dragon, this fascinating creature can still be identified by its general “nine similarities” to other animals. The ancient Chinese text 《尔雅翼》 (Read: “Er Ya Yi”) describes it as so: “It has horns like a stag, head like a camel, eyes like a rabbit, neck like a snake, body like a Shen (蜃, Meaning: A Chinese mythical sea monster/serpent), scales like a fish, claws like an eagle, palms like a tiger and ears like a cow.” It also added that the dragon “head is topped with branched corals that help it fly.

When it breathes, its breath turns into clouds, which may also turn into water or fire”. Evidently, Nature’s mystery, wonder and power are an inspiration to Chinese culture and philosophy, and are successfully captured by this cultural emblem. Hidden behind veils of mystery, this vase is a captivating maze of the past. Its glaze comes from another mysterious origin. Legend has it that two brother ceramicists worked in Long Quan, taking clay from the same location to create two different styles of ceramics that were extremely difficult to differentiate. The one made by the older brother in his private kiln is therefore named “Ko ware” (哥釉 Read: Ge You, Literally meaning: Older-brother glaze). Famous for its grayish-white and intentional closely crackled glaze, Ko ware is one of China’s four greatest ceramic creations. It generally has a warm rice-yellow glaze textured with double crackle, known as “金丝铁线” (Read: Jin Si Tie Xian, Meaning: Golden Floss Iron Thread), prominent dark color cracks interspersed with finer reddish lines. Iron oxide was intentionally applied to the mouth and foot of the vase to create the “brown mouth, iron foot” effect. The beveled designs, two dragons at play with a Heavenly Pearl and a phoenix dancing, on the crackled vase is rooted in ancient cultural myths that vary from saying to saying. This ancient Guan Yin (观音, Bodhisattva: a Buddhist Goddess) Vase design, is known as one of the sacred Eight Buddhist Symbols of Good Fortune. The vase used by the Goddess contains the divine nectar of life, compassion and wisdom (pure water). It is believed that such vases have healing effects, can also increase the vitality and good fortune within its vicinity. Not only is it a great Feng Shui item, it is also an art of culture and mystery worthy of display.


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