‘Flower Balls’ on C19th and C20th Chinese porcelain (花球 Huā qiú)

CompSingle 1A    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 2B    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…


‘Flower Balls’ are a highly varied pattern, and at first glance some of the examples don’t seem to have anything in common. However, once you zoom into these gorgeous circular medallions, a whole new world opens up. Whilst some are simply geometric or flower based designs, others show dragons, roosters, landscapes and all sorts of other goodies, all bundled into a circular medallion shape.

CompSingle 3C    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…


The pattern has changed through the centuries with Qianlong examples, a range of 19th century forms, and then a classic keyfret bordered design through Guangxu, the Republic and early PROC.

CompSingle 4D    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 5E   A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 6F   A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 7G    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 8H   A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 9I    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 10J   A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 11K    A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…
CompSingle 12L   A series of individual Flower Balls, from a range of time periods…


The twelve mixed flower ball series above have been taken from actual pieces shown below. I am hoping that by the end of this report you might be able to date each single one a little better!

All the examples below are shown in ‘like’ groupings, in a roughly chronological sequence.



Starting with a Yongzheng example from Sotheby’s, showing doucai enamels of underglaze blue and overglaze enamels of red, green, yellow and aubergine. This combination continued through to the 19th century and has been produced again in the late C20th and to the present day (these latter being copies as they have Yongzheng, Qianlong or Daoguang marks):-


1_Sothebys_39_0101 Yongzheng doucai bowls, Sotheby’s


2_Sothebys_96_0102 Yongzheng bowl, Sotheby’s




A Qianlong example, also from Sotheby’s, shows the continuation of pinks into the enamels, and perhaps even some overglaze blue:-






5_Sothebys_12_0105 Qianlong brushpot with flower balls on a feathered gilt ground, Sotheby’s




A Jiaqing Sotheby’s example adds black enamels and some new textures, no underglaze blue on this one:-




A rarer form of the Jiaqing mark can be found on some doucai examples:-









9_Christies_104_0309 Daoguang teabowl, Christies


10_Sothebys_96_0210 Faux bois ground with interesting large flower balls, Shendetang Zhi mark, Sotheby’s



11_Sothebys_96_0411 Daoguang bowl, showing a few balls with patterns of gourds, etc rather than just geometric flowers, Sotheby’s



12_Sothebys_96_0612 Daoguang bowl, showing a few balls with peaches & bats, etc rather than just geometric flowers, Sotheby’s



13_Christies_118_0113 Daoguang dish, just geometric flower balls, Sotheby’s




During the 19th century a number of geometric flower ball examples with underglaze blue Qianlong or other mid Qing marks appeared, all with a medium-dark dull blue sgraffito background (some have argued that these might be mark & period, but I don’t think so… happy to hear another view though) :-

































An uncommon duo with underglaze blue and white scroll or diaper background and pink based flower balls, C19th:-






Most of the previous examples show flower balls as quite simple geometric and radial representations of flowers or petals.

However, by the Late Qing period, a new set of ‘flower balls’ starts to make an appearance. These include circular medallion representations of roosters, peaches, plants, diamonds and other new forms.

Examples of this new addition of flower balls usually have a white ground and are often intermixed with ‘one hundred antiques’ elements. Most have no marks, late 19th century in the main:-

26_BR0297_326 Wash basin with figures and flower balls, late Qing



27_BR0302_127 Charger with flower balls and buddhist emblems, ruyi border, iron red bamboo sprays on back, late Qing



28_BR0572_328 Porcelain pillow with flower balls, bats, buddhist emblems & ‘100 antiques’, keyfret border, late Qing



29_BR0608_429 Blue ground vase with multiple borders, figures and flowers in cartouche and flower balls & sanduo fruits over the ground, late Qing



30_BR0895_230 ’One Hundred Antique’s vases including flower balls, turquoise interior and base, no mark



31_BR0741_331 Beautiful bright yellow ground narcissus trays with vases of flowers, fruit, vegetables and flower balls



32_BR0892_632 Platter with flower balls, ruyi border, central sanduo medallion, no mark



33_BR0926_133 Platter with ‘One Hundred Antiques’, flower balls, key fret and floral scroll border, no mark



34_BR0927_134 Lidded jar with ‘One Hundred Antiques’, flower balls, ruyi and key fret borders, no mark



‘TONGZHI’ MARKED, Late C19th-Early C20th

A relatively common group are the footed bowls and dishes of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Most have an interesting variety of stamped or handwritten Tongzhi marks, but other marks do occur – some may be of the period (Tongzhi), but most are probably late Guangxu to early Republic. In this group the subject matter of the balls becomes even more varied with grapes, stylised waves, bats & clouds, natural lotus flowers, gourds, pomegranates and all manner of intricacies – see how many new ones you can find!

On the other hand, some of the flower balls hark back to their early C19th predecessors. The quality and detail of the flower balls varies considerably, as does the variety of the borders:-
























46_BR0168_246 See similar Guangxu celadon ground example below (next section)





48_BR0232_548  See similar examples in terms of enamel colour, but with Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi marks, in sections below, Republic


49_BR0417_749  Rare and beautiful coral ground, ribbed lidded bowl and stand





































GUANGXU  marked pieces: –


66_BR0368_366 This plate has an intricate geometric border and soft intricate flower balls, Guangxu mark and period


67_BR0213_767 Dragon medallion in centre of the plate, above, soft floral balls, phoenix balls, bats, insects. The background within the balls has a stippled pattern, which is very beautiful. Guangxu mark and period


68_BR0285_668 Celadon ground plate with underglaze blue mark, Guangxu Guan Yao (Guangxu Imperial kiln). Mixed lot of ‘flower balls’, including goldfish, cranes and spirals


69_Christies_105_0169 Christies, underglaze blue Guangxu mark & period, high level enamelling


70_Sothebys_5_0170 Sotheby’s large lidded box, Guangxu, but the mark “ground and barely visible”


71_Sothebys_33_0471 Sotheby’s, Guangxu mark and period dish


71a_Sothebys_58_0271a Sotheby’s, Guangxu mark and period, muddy yet bright enamels, may not be of the period IMO


72_Sothebys_78_0272 Sotheby’s, Guangxu mark and period, huge variety of birds in the flower balls


73_Sothebys_96_0373 The blue ground with gilt flower balls variation, also found on earlier examples back to at least Qianlong times, Guangxu mark & period, Sotheby’s


74_BR0029_674 Birdfeeders with Guangxu mark






75_BR0194_275 Beautiful yellow ground plate with a Qianlong seal mark



76_Sothebys_96_0576 Jar with underglaze blue and copper red flower balls, with sculpted qilong, ruyi , key fret and lappet borders, late C19th, Sotheby’s



Sgraffito ground examples:



77_BR_MR158_103577 This interesting set of cups and saucers has a sgraffito ground and ‘millefleur’ type flower balls. The cups have Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi (Jiangxi Porcelain Company) marks but the matching saucers have handwritten red Guangxu marks. Clearly made by the JPC, which affixed Guangxu marks as well! I have seen this doubling up on other patterns as well, 1910s/20s dating


78_BR_MR158_103778 See caption above


79_BR_MR159_103879 See caption above


80_BR_MR183_119580 Another example of this yellow sgraffito and millefleur type flower ball sub-pattern. This time with a ‘ Jiangxi Dong Hui Ci Pin’ mark, 1910/20s


81_Sothebys_61_0181 A vase with a Jurentang mark and this pattern subset, Sothebys, after 1916, so similar dating to the ones above


82_BR0747_282 This sgraffito variant has the more ‘normal’ range of flower balls, Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi mark, 1910s/20s




84_BR0008_684 Lovely teabowl with all the bells and whistles, handwritten Guangxu mark within double underglaze blue circles, early C20th


85_BR_MR120_077185 This blue sgraffito teabowl even has a landscape ‘ball’, the only one I have seen so far! Handwritten Qianlong mark, Republic


86_BR_MR177_115686 Rare pink ground bowl, but the flower balls could be more detailed…Republic


87_BR0493_387 This blue ground sgraffito plate with flower balls is Republic period (as is the yellow one below). The colour of the blue ground and the nature of the flower ball decoration is different from the darker blue ground examples in the section above, which are dated to the mid-late Qing


88_BR_MR151_099588  Another yellow sgraffito pattern, but the yellow is lighter and brighter, has cartouche with flowers & butterflies, stamped Qianlong (in 2 rows rather 2 columns) mark plus ‘CHINA’, Republic period



More GUANGXU MARKS, distinct pattern:-

One of the most common flower ball combinations shows a combination of multi-coloured key fret border on a white ground with an array of brightly coloured balls. The quality varies quite a bit, and the Guangxu 6 character kaishu marks are either stamped, or are handwritten by a very unique and different calligraphic hand. I am not sure of the dating of these examples, but assume for now that the handwritten ones are mark & period, and the stamped ones are mostly Republic period. Stamped Qianlong ones are also Republic period or early PROC:

First lot: Guangxu, handwritten marks in a distinctive style (using a very thin brush line and somewhat elongated) – note also the use of a multi-coloured spoke basal border. Even more new elements inhabit the flower balls – goldfish, dragons, cranes, butterflies and narcissus flowers, good quality painting:-











Guangxu M&P93











…and a few more standard handwritten Guangxu marks, otherwise similar to those above. However, in some at least, the quality of decoration is not so good.

























108_BR0793_3108 This last one has a ruyi upper border, a lappet basal border, and a stippled background to the flower balls



REPUBLIC – Mid C20th

Stamped Guangxu and Qianlong marked examples from the Republic and early PROC, average quality in general, still quite delightful:-


















117_BR_MR172_1123117 Note the stippled background on the flower balls above, usually found on older examples, but adds an extra dimension to the pattern. Handwritten Qianlong mark




119_BR0190_1119  Complete Tea Set with the flower ball pattern, Qianlong mark, late Republic/early PRC































Other marks, most are Republic period, some earliest PRC:-


133_BR_MR78_0520133  Late Qing/Republic little thick dish, handwritten ‘CHINA’ mark in black


134_BR0347_5134  Late Republic lidded mug with spoon or toothbrush holder, private company mark


135_BR0505_5135  Late Republic teapot, private company mark in a diamond outline


136_BR0882_1136  Late Republic, early 1950s oval platter with detailed flower balls and flower slips on a turquoise ground, private company circle mark


137_BR0753_2137  Mid C20th vase, ‘CHINA’ mark


138_BR0135_4138  Rare Cong vase with flower slips and some flower balls, mid C20th


139_BR0355_1139 Jiangxi / Min Zheng Xing / Chu Pin – “Jiangxi Province / Min Zheng Xing (name) / Products”. Nanchang. Second quarter of 20th c. before 1949. This mark was used by Mr. Min Zheng Xing – (name) in his porcelain shop in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. At this time the Wa Lee Factory was still in Nanchang. In 1947 the Wa Lee Factory moved to Canton “near the end of the Yi De Road” and in 1949 moved on to Hong Kong. Meanwhile Min Zheng Xing remained in Jiangxi. Around 1951 to 1952 Min Zheng Xing “who also was an accomplished porcelain painter” travelled to HK once, trying to sell his Nanchang factory porcelains. Mr. Kung “treated him and took him around, but with little success since the times were difficult in HK too”. (Source: Simon Ng interview w Mr Kung, HK 2001. www.gotheborg.com)  NOTE the gold outlines on all the flower balls


140_BR0772_3140  This dish and the one below have stamped ‘Jiangxi Ciye Gongsi’ marks. Quite unique, with these ‘ dirty ‘ colours. Nonetheless, authentic for a mid-Republic dating


141_BR_MR66_0439141  See caption above


142_BR0837_5142  Nanchang Xin Zhong Hua cup & saucer (the Jiangxi characters indicate an early 1950s dating; before 1949 ‘Nanchang’ characters were used rather than  ‘Jiangxi’ ones)


143_BR0937_7143  Jiujiang company set with rich turquoise ground, note scalloped edge on plate, Late Republic


There is also a subset of flower balls which are be-ribboned, and are accompanied by Chinese lions or even dragons. They are mentioned for completeness here, but I am only showing a few examples. This is a separate pattern as far as I am concerned.


144_BR0584_5144  Late Qing, yellow ground footed dish with Chinese lions and a be-ribboned flower ball, handwritten Tongzhi 5 character mark
145_BR0739_1145  Republic period yellow ground bowl with chinese lions and beribboned flower balls, multi-coloured key fret border, stamped Qianlong mark
146_DPExBR_028_3146  Republic period plate with dragon and flower balls, multi-coloured key fret border, stamped Guangxu mark



That’s all folks! Yet another Chinese porcelain pattern outlined for your convenience, all comments, corrections etc welcome,

Now you can scroll back to the beginning and see if you can date the individual flower balls…..




2 thoughts on “‘Flower Balls’ on C19th and C20th Chinese porcelain (花球 Huā qiú)

  1. hi michaela, just wanted to say thank you for the research papers you created on flower balls from different time periods, as usual you are quite thorough.  I will read it with care when I have some more time, I have at least one pair of bottle vases famille juane with flower ball pattern and maybe another piece somewhere, I do like them. Hopy you and you family and hydrangeas are well.your friendjoe carazola

  2. Pingback: CHINESE REPUBLIC (1912-1949) and other MARKS OVERVIEW | watersilkdragon

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