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23. A WUCAI ‘PEACH’ DISH, MING DYNASTY, TIANQI PERIOD (1621-1627)

明天啟 五彩石榴紋盤

The steep rounded sides rising from a short tapered foot to an everted rim, painted to the interior with branches of fruiting peach, below swirling clouds and and the moon, inscribed with with a poem, Japanese wood box

Diameter: 20.8cm

Provenance: Purchased in Yokohama, 2013; Mujintang Collection.

The two lines of the poem were written by the Southern Song civil official/poet Xie Fangde (1226-1289 AD) and read: xun de tao yuan hao bi qin, tao hong you shi yi nien chun. ‘(We) chanced upon the peach garden to flee the chaos of the Qin dynasty, and welcomed another year of spring as the peach blossomed’.

Xie’s battles against Yuan Mongols reminded him of the famous Classical Chinese prose ‘Peach Blossom Spring’ written by Eastern Jin dynasty (317-420CE) poet and civil official Tao Yuanming (365–427 AD). It is an influential fable, describing people’s search for eternal peace against the backdrop of the tyrannical Qin dynasty. Many Chinese literati of the later dynasties quoted this story, so did Xie. For most Chinese today, a peach blossom garden is a metaphorical expression for Utopia. 

This dish has a firing crack from its first firing, which has been highlighted in green enamel to each side prior to the second (enamel) firing. This would tend to resonate with Japanese taste who more readily accepted imperfections

in the manufacture of a piece as it reflected a rustic, more simple aesthetic. For a similar design of peach, The Fang Family Compendium of Ink Cakes, 1588, Volume 4, p. 12, illustrated below. For two inscribed dishes of similar design,  please see two examples from the Sekido Museum of Art publication, Tokyo, 2017, pl. 159 and 160.

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