Generally Republic period in age, at least in this permutation, this pattern comprises an ogee shaped cartouche containing a variety of subjects on a plain coloured enamel ground. Other ground patterns were made with these ogee cartouche, both before and after the Republic period, but I think the plain ground pattern is quite unique to the period. Also, other ‘window’ (as the Chinese call this and other shaped cartouche) shapes occur through Chinese ceramic history, such as squares, diamonds, roundels, circles etc, but this ogee shape is such a satisfying outline, and is consequently bewitching!
This lidded serving pot with a yellow ground has four ogee shaped cartouche, each holding a different scene: on the base a rising sun amidst waves with a small school of fish; a heron amidst grasses and flowers with mountains in the background; and a scene of a red bird amongst flowers and reeds. Floral sprigs in gold are painted on the plain yellow ground, although in most instances of this type of pattern the ground is completely plain. No base mark.
So, to be clear, the pattern I am discussing here consists of a plain ground (not scrolled, graviata or netted, but some examples may have a few gold flower sprigs, as in the image above) and an ogee shaped, usually gold outlined cartouche, with a variety of decorations within that cartouche (not a circular medallion, a square, fan or diamond shape), see above.
Where did this pattern originate and from what precedent? In short, I believe that this pattern combination may have come from European ceramics and European patterns. Elements of these European patterns were even made in China, originally for export to the West, usually throughout the 19th century. Then, in the Late Qing and early Republic period rich Europeans living in Shanghai & Hong Kong, wealthy Chinese business and political figures living in Shanghai and elsewhere, as well as returning Chinese students from Europe (mainly France and Germany) as well as America and Japan may have brought with them Meissen and/or Sevres porcelains and their like. It is these European porcelains imported into China which I believe were copied and developed, for the Chinese, in the kilns and workshops of Jingdezhen, Shanghai, Jiujiang and Nanchang during the middle and late Republic period. This is, at this stage, pure conjecture. However, we do know that the Chinese wanted to reinvigorate the porcelain industry at the beginning of the Republic period, trying to make porcelains which would compete with the top quality dinner sets from Europe and England.
An alternative possible origin is that this cartouche shape was used regularly in Straits Chinese/Peranakan ceramics and may have developed from this set of wares, although the cartouche outlines are more rounded. The Peranakan wares themselves could have been originally influenced from western designs as well. Another possibility is that this was just a pattern which arose of itself within China, probably taking elements from earlier Qing wares. However, I have searched many books on Qing porcelains, looking for an earlier version of this pattern – none look anything like this pattern; it definitely has more in common with the Meissen pieces shown below, although the scenes within the cartouche are very Chinese in taste and execution.
Looking at the all the examples I get the feeling that many were made by Shanghai companies, especially the early ones, and would go so far as to suggest that the pattern had its origins in the 20th century from there.
Here are a few European examples which could have been the inspiration for this pattern.
The first is from the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and immediately caught my eye when I first saw it:
Meissen two handled soup bowl and cover circa 1740, On loan from Kenneth Reed Accession number: L2012.47.a-b.
Meissen covered jar with Chinese scenes. (c. 1735), alaintruong2014.wordpress.com.
Meissen Teapot (c. 1740) Warner Antiques.
It may be a fanciful scenario but imagine Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, wealthy Europeans giving parties, wealthy Chinese business people living in mansions; and those Chinese students who had spent part of the 1920s and even earlier in France or Germany and perhaps attending salons and soirees where these beautiful Meissen and like patterns would feature! Was this then the environment from which this pattern could have been ordered from the painters of Jiangxi’s porcelain studios? Remember that Sun Yat Sen and many others spent several years in European countries as well as Japan, and it may be that he enjoyed this pattern and friends organised for it to be made for him, or perhaps it was the wealthy warlords trying to outdo each other? Perhaps it was even made initially for the foreigners based in Shanghai and Beijing themselves. Although there could be countless other ways in which this pattern developed in China of the 1920-30s, this is the scenario that I have come to imagine. And what about the entourage of Chiang Kai-Shek, eventual leader of the Nationalist Government, and his wife Meiling Soong: possibly a more plausible type of person to enjoy these ‘indulgent’ things than their predecessors? (The Chiang Kai-Sheks had a holiday retreat in the town of Jiujiang in the 1930s, where great deal of entertaining went on). Certainly it was at this time that more and more Chinese people gave porcelain as gifts, with inscriptions acknowledging the giver and receiver, in order to demonstrate their prosperity and standing.
The Chinese call these decorations with ogee or any other shaped cartouche, ‘window’ or ‘opening’ porcelain, and one author traces its origins back to the Cizhou and Jizhou kilns of the Song Dynasty, albeit with a long leap of time in between. Nonetheless, this pattern became very popular in the Republic, especially from the plethora of private company kilns which cropped up in Jingdezhen, Juijiang and Shanghai during this period (1920s-1940s).
By far the most common mark on these wares is ‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’ – treasured product of Jiangxi Province. A few have reign marks or no marks. The rest for the most part are private company stamped marks from Jingdezhen (Jiangxi), Jiujiang, & Shanghai .
Some marks correlate very strongly with particular patterns (& shapes):
- ‘Jiangxi Yu Hai Ji Zao’ (or just Yu Hai Ji Zao) with yellow ground lidded tureens (congee or porridge pots) and other shapes, and ‘flower & bird’ or just flower decorations:-
- ‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’ stamped in overglaze blue with yellow or lime green ground and ‘Figures in a Bamboo Forest’ decoration in the cartouche:-
- ‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’ with carmine ground and a landscape in the cartouche:
For the most part these are utilitarian wares, even though some are very elegant. It appears that whole dinner services were made in some of these patterns, perhaps reflecting their ‘European’ origins.
PATTERNS IN THE CARTOUCHE
With a few exceptions there are 8 consistent types of decoration found within the cartouche of this pattern:
- Landscapes, incorporating a river and mountain scene, sometimes with figures and a boat
- Puce coloured landscape incorporating similar features to the landscapes above
- Bird (usually a small bird on a branch) & flower or just flowers – a subset of this type is a crane & pine motif and a heron & grasses motif
- Figures within a Bamboo Forest
- Sun, waves & rock, sometimes with a crane or an eagle, sometimes with a pagoda amongst clouds
- Figural scenes with red outlined faces, commonly on the coral ground examples and often with seal marks. This particular style may have originated earlier than the Republic period
- Dragon & Phoenix, usually on a gold ground example, usually late Republic & after
- Rarer exceptions – naturalistic fruit, Chinese dogs, Bo Gu (100 antiques/precious things)
Interestingly, I could only find one published Chinese example with this pattern. However, I don’t believe that this particular combination has been differentiated before and, except for the post WWII examples which were prolific, are not very common and may have been specially ordered, as the example below demonstrates.
This lidded serving bowl was published in ‘ Innovations and Creations, A Retrospect of 20th Century Porcelain from Jingdezhen’ 2004 by Jingdezhen Ceramic Museum and Art Museum & The Chinese University of Hong Kong. It is of note because the small shield shaped cartouche have inscriptions which date the piece to 1936.
This example indicates that these particular and other patterned wares were used as gifts for friends, relatives, teachers and bosses. This became a very popular exercise in China during the 1920s and 1930s. I have seen countless numbers of inscribed porcelains which would have been ordered especially and individually from porcelain studios and shops in the main cities of Jiangxi and perhaps elsewhere in China.
Several pieces have a date in the inscription: 1932, 1934, 1935, 1936. Although most of the examples below are Republic period in age, the coral ground examples may span a greater age range. Also, certain pattern combinations seem to have arisen at fairly specific time periods, such as the yellow ground/figures in a bamboo forest group, which are probably post WWII. I believe the majority of the examples below and generally are 1920-30s.
This report is primarily a visual one, the images will tell the story and flesh out the outline given above. I have divided the examples based on their ground colour and then within that by the decoration types in the cartouche.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – PINE & CRANE
‘Jiujiang Zhen Dong Gongsi’. All from the same maker this grouping of 4 pieces (below) with a pine & crane motif is part of a larger Chinese dinner service, with several bowls, dish and plate sizes. The inscription is aspirational – Song He Fu Gui meaning ‘Pine Crane Wealth Honour’, expressing a wish for a long life, wealth and high standing in society.‘Jiujiang Zhen Dong Gongsi’, sauce dish‘Jiujiang Zhen Dong Gongsi’, plate‘Jiujiang Zhen Dong Gongsi’, large dish
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – HERON & GRASSES, BIRD & FLOWER
No mark. This small cylindrical lidded serving pot has four cartouche, each with a different pattern, all delicately painted. The yellow ground has a series gilt floral decorations. This is a very unique example, I haven’t seen another like it. It may or may not have been part of a stacked set of 4 or 5 such pots.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – CRANE, WAVES & SUN, INSCRIPTION
‘Wang Wu Beng Tang Jing Zeng’ (a gift given by Wangwu Beng Tang). The cartouche holds a scene showing a sun rising over the sea and a crane and pagoda amongst white clouds. The other cartouche holds an inscription – Wang Mu Shi Tai Fu Ren, Ba Yi Rong Qing, meaning a gift given at a Mrs Wang’s 80th birthday, probably Wangwu’s mother.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – PUCE LANDSCAPES
No mark. This small bowl holds a puce landscape in its two cartouche‘Jiangxi ? Hua Chu Pin’. This teabowl set or gaiwan also holds puce landscapes in the cartouche. The shape of the gaiwan is 1920-30s.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – LANDSCAPE
‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, teapot
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURAL SCENES
‘Tong Yi Chu Pin’. This bowl has a figure of a lady in a garden in one cartouche and a group of flowers in the other, not common. I have another example with this mark which indicates that Tong Yi is a Shanghai based company.‘?? Shun Zhi’. Another example with figures in the cartouche, deities or elders on the tureen, young boys on the lid. The mark needs full translation.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – FLOWERS WITH AND WITHOUT A BIRD
Oval 3 division mark, undecipherable, dish with 3 different shaped cartouche, each holding a floral sprig.No mark. Teapot holding a flower & bird motif on one side and just flowers on the other. This particular grouping is very common and both the way the flower, leaves and birds are painted is quite distinct. Probable Shanghai origins, although many pieces have no mark or just ‘CHINA’ marks.‘Yu Yuan ??’. This teabowl has a less common shape to most of this period, with the lid more bulbous and the bowl without the slightly everted rim of the more common teabowl of this period.No mark shown in the photos available, but the leaf and bird painting technique is quite recognisable. Possibly of ‘Yu Hai Ji Zao’ manufacture, see below, although the cartouche shape is more rounded.‘Yu Hai Ji Zao’. This is a very common mark for these yellow ground tureens, pots and cylindrical vases. See all the examples below. ‘Jiangxi Yu Hai Ji Zao’, ginger jar minus lid. These next four examples with ‘Jiangxi’ at the beginning of the mark. ‘Jiangxi Yu Hai Ji Zao’. This lidded tureen has a phoenix in a tree on one side and a bird and flower and willow branches on the other.‘Jiangxi Yu Hai Ji Zao’. This cylindrical vase has two different shaped cartouche. Again the decorations and painting are very consistent with the examples above.‘Jiangxi Yu Hai Ji Zao’, tureen. No gold outline to the cartouche on this bowl, uncommon Qianlong reign mark rather than a private company mark.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURES IN A BAMBOO FOREST
This consistent pattern is extremely common in China, not so much in the west. A large majority is stamped with a ‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’ mark. Although I have not been able to get good translations for the inscriptions, it would appear that they relate to the war with Japan and this would fit with my dating of 1945-50. It would also explain why they do not appear in the west. Please see the inscription translation below for a couple of pieces, but would appreciate any translations?
The painting can be quite scrappy, but some are more refined. Two or three figures stroll in a bamboo forest, often with a single rock and with a blue moon, framed underneath by two crossing bamboo branches.
‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, lidded serving bowl.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, teabowl set.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, teabowl set.‘Shanghai Xin Bei Men Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin’. The inscription is enlightening! – Di Zhi Xiao Dong Men, Shanghai , Li Xing ? Chou Duan Ji Jing Zeng, Dianhua Er San Ling Si Liu (located at little east door, Shanghai Li Xing Silk Company given as a gift. Telephone 23046), so not always about WWII.‘Jiujiang Zhen Xi Zhen Pin’, plate.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, teapot.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, ginger jar.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, cylindrical vases.No mark. Inscription reads ‘Yong Ji Guo Chi’ (remember national humiliation forever).‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’. The inscription on this horseshoe cup is a poem about something military.A rare nine piece condiments set with this pattern.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, teapot.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, lidded serving bowl.
YELLOW GROUND EXAMPLES – BLUE BAMBOO FOREST AND INSCRIPTION
No mark, inscription gives a dating the year Yi Hai 1935, and is a gift to a brother. No gold edge line to the cartouche.
CARMINE GROUND EXAMPLES
Almost all these examples show a landscape in the cartouche, so it is a very consistent combination. However, one has ‘Figures in a Bamboo Forest’ decoration and another has a blue landscape. Many of these pieces have a Jiangxi Zhen Pin mark and are very similar to the published example at the beginning of this report. They are quite elegant.
CARMINE GROUND EXAMPLES – LANDSCAPES IN GRISAILLE AND/OR GRISAILLE & BLUE- EDGED HILLS
‘Jiangxi She Xing Hua Chu Pin’, repeated in the inscription. Xing Hua may be a Shanghai based company in the 1930s. The landscape is in grisaille and quite detailed.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’. Classic landscape with blue edged hills/mountains, very atmospheric. The gold outlinings are very well applied, giving a very polished product.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’. Similar to the example above.‘Guang Fu Chang Xuan(?)’, tea cup.‘Jiangxi Ming Ci’, dish.‘Jiangxi Ming Ci’ and ‘MADE IN CHINA’, sauce dish.‘Jiangxi Shun Kang Chang Chu Pin’, small teapot with grisaille landscape and an inscription, yet to be translated.No mark, just a sticker remnant. Detailed landscapes on two cylindrical vases.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, plate with landscape in an individual style.‘Jurentang Zhi’ in the rarer kaishu character style (usually a seal mark). This ogee shaped vase has a landscape on one side and a Bo Gu (100 antiques/precious objects) design of a very particular style, probably the Shanghai company ‘Li Hua’ on the reverse cartouche.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, another bowl in this series.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, lidded serving bowl with a classic landscape within all the cartouche.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, teabowl set with landscapes.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, small teapot and bowl with sauce dish set, classic landscape scenes.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, horseshoe cup.‘Jiangxi Ji Tai Chang Chu Pin’ in an oval 3 divisioned mark on this bowl.‘Bao Long Chu Pin’ mark, handpainted, tureen minus lid.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’ mark, handpainted, dish with 4 landscape cartouche.Two cylindrical vases with detailed landscapes, mark not shown.‘Shanghai Jian Hua Chu Pin’, teabowl set.‘Jiujiang Da Xing Gongsi’. Dating in the inscription to 1932, Ren Shen, lidded serving bowl.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, vase with several cartouche, not all ogee shaped.‘Jiujiang Hua Chang Gongsi’, 1934 dating on this lidded serving pot.Vase with detailed landscape, Chinese dog handles, no mark shown.‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, horseshoe cup.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, teapot with less refined landscape than usual.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, this with figures in a bamboo forest.‘Jiujiang Yuan Dong Chu Pin’, blue landscape and inscription.
CORAL RED GROUND EXAMPLES
CORAL RED GROUND EXAMPLES – LANDSCAPES, TYPICAL RIVER, MOUNTAIN & BOAT SCENES
‘Jiangxi Yuan Sheng Sheng Chu Pin’ Jingdezhen on a bowl. The ground is scattered with gilt ‘flower balls’.‘Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin Bei Men Wai’ on a bowl. The ground is scattered with gilt ‘flower balls’.Zhong Guo Zhi Zao ‘MADE IN CHINA’, PRC dating, 1970-80s.‘Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin Bei Men Wai’ on a bowl. The ground is scattered with gilt ‘flower balls’.‘Shen De Tang Zhi’ mark on this lidded circular box.‘Jurentang Zhi’, Late Republic or PRC brushholder.‘Da Qing Guangxu Nian Zhi’, 2 rows each of three characters configuration on this tureen.‘Da Qing Qianlong Nian Zhi’, Late Republic or PRC vase.
CORAL RED GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURAL SCENES, THESE SPAN LATE QING – REPUBLIC
The figures in many of these coral red ground examples look slightly older than Republic, but on many Chinese websites these are labelled Republic (such as the first three below).
Seal Paste Box, mark needs translation.‘Jin Yu Zhen Cang’ cup.Seal mark, undecipherable, teapot.‘Yu Hai ??’, lidded tureen.‘Wei Bao Tang Wang’, dated to Ding Chou 1937 in the inscription on this bowl.‘Jiangxi Jing Mei Gongsi’ mark on this bowl depicting Shou Lao.
CORAL RED GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURES IN A BAMBOO FOREST
‘Shanghai Yan Xing Tai Chu Pin Xin Bei Men Nei’ mark on this handled tea cup.
CORAL RED GROUND EXAMPLES – FLOWERS WITH AND WITHOUT A BIRD
No mark.‘Shun ? Nian Zhi ‘mark on this teabowl.Seal mark, needs translation.No Mark, as is often the case on jardinieres. ‘CHINA’ mark on this tea tray.‘Qianlong Nian Zhi’, Late Republic or PRC vase.
CORAL RED GROUND EXAMPLES – VERY RARE CHINESE DOG & BIRD
‘Tong Zhi Nian Zhi’mark on this cylindrical vase or brusholder.
LIME GREEN GROUND EXAMPLES
LIME GREEN GROUND EXAMPLES – PUCE LANDSCAPES
‘Jiangxi Ming Ci’ mark on this lidded serving bowl.Oval mark, 3 divisions – ‘Jiangxi ??? Chu Pin’ on teapot.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’ mark on a pair of lidded pots.‘Jiangxi ? Gong Qun Chu Pin’ mark on teapot.‘Shanghai Tong Xing Chu Pin Xin Bei Men Wai’ mark on lidded jar.‘Tong Xing Zhen Pin’ mark on this tureen.No mark, horseshoe cup.No mark, jardiniere.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, lidded jar.‘Li Hua Gongsi Chu Pin’ mark on this deep dish/bowl, Shanghai company.‘Yuan Sheng Sheng Zao’ marked plate.
LIME GREEN GROUND EXAMPLES – LANDSCAPES WITH BLUE-OUTLINED HILLS, MOUNTAINS
No mark, lidded tureen.Mark needs translation (Tong is the first character but it is not a Tongzhi reign mark), teapot.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, vase/brusholder.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, small teapot.
LIME GREEN GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURES IN A BAMBOO FOREST
‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’, ginger jar.
LIME GREEN GROUND EXAMPLES – SUN, WAVES & ROCK WITH BIRDS (EAGLE & CRANE)
‘Jiujiang Yuan Dong Chu Pin’, dated to 1936, a military gift, lidded serving bowl.‘Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin Bei Men Wai’ mark on a plate.
LIME GREEN GROUND EXAMPLES – FLOWERS, WITH AND WITHOUT BIRDS
Mark undecipherable on this seal paste box.‘Jiangxi Yu Hai Ji Zao’, lidded tureen.‘Jiangxi Xing Chang Ci She Chu Pin’, Late Republic or PRC colour combinations and enamels on this vase.Mark needs translation if decipherable, tea cup.Zhong Guo Zhi Zao ‘MADE IN CHINA’ in a diamond shape, PRC 1970s/80s bowl.
BLUE GROUND EXAMPLES
BLUE GROUND EXAMPLES – PUCE LANDSCAPES
No mark, gilt ‘flower balls’ on the ground of this tea cup.No mark shown on this tureen.No mark on this condiments set.‘Yu Hai Ji Zao’, lidded tureen.Stamped Guangxu reign mark, tea bowl set.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, tea bowl set.No mark.
BLUE GROUND EXAMPLES – FLOWERS, WITH AND WITHOUT BIRDS
‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’ mark on this plate.‘Yuan Sheng Sheng Zao’, lidded tureen.
BLUE GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURAL SCENE
Stamped Qianlong reign mark, probably late Republic or PRC vase.
BLUE GROUND EXAMPLES – BO GU PATTERN (100 ANTIQUE OBJECTS) IN THE CARTOUCHE
Underglaze blue Buddhist emblem as base mark, probably C19th.
GOLD GROUND EXAMPLES
GOLD GROUND EXAMPLES – PUCE LANDSCAPES
‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, bowl.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, sauce dish.No mark.‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, lidded jar.No mark, inscription doesn’t give a date, teabowl set.‘Jiangxi Li Fuchang Meishu Ci She’ (Li Fuchang Ceramic Painting Studio in Jiangxi), teacup.
GOLD GROUND EXAMPLES – LANDSCAPES
No mark shown, bowl, sauce dish, spoon set.
GOLD GROUND EXAMPLES – FLOWERS, WITH AND WITHOUT BIRDS
‘Jiangxi Yong ? Chu Pin’, bowl.‘Jiangxi Shui Feng Zhen Pin’, bowl.
GOLD GROUND EXAMPLES – COLLECTION OF FRUIT
Mark needs translation, tea cup and saucer.
GOLD GROUND EXAMPLES – DRAGON & PHOENIX
‘Jiangxi Zhen Pin’, bowls converted with metal handles into teacups, saucers and spoons.‘Jiangxi Min Zheng Xing Chu Pin’, bowl, pre 1947.Zhong Guo Jingdezhen ‘MADE IN CHINA’ =D+=. 1970s, tea cups.
PALE CORAL GROUND EXAMPLES
PALE CORAL GROUND EXAMPLES – BO GU PATTERN (100 ANTIQUE OBJECTS) IN THE CARTOUCHE
‘Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin’, large bowl.No mark on this bowl.
PALE CORAL GROUND EXAMPLES – FLOWERS, WITH AND WITHOUT BIRDS
Mark needs translation, pair of narcissus bowls.‘Tongzhi Nian Zhi’, but later, teabowl set.‘Tongzhi Nian Zhi’, but later, teabowl set. ‘Qianlong Nian Zhi’, Republic, lidded tureen with floral sprays on the ground.‘Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin Xin Bei Men Wai’ mark, lidded tureen.
PALE CORAL GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURAL SCENE
‘Bao Sheng Chang Hao’, teabowl.
PALE CORAL GROUND EXAMPLES – FIGURE IN BAMBOO FOREST
‘Wan Yu Chu Pin’, teabowl set.
I hope you have found this group of porcelains as distinctive and interesting as I have,
Best wishes, Michaela