Japanese Blue and White wares 17th Century - Dishes
Height 23 mm (0.91 inch), diameter of rim 206 mm (8.11 inch), diameter of footring 112 mm (4.41 inch), weight 332 grams (11.71 ounce (oz.))
Dish on footring, flat rim. On the base four spur-marks in a Y-pattern. Decorated in underglaze blue with a seated lady, flanked by children holding and waving a fan, in a theatre like setting. A banderol, filled with Chinese characters is just above the box of the seated Guan Yin. The lady observes the lodge of the theatre filled with a hundred children. The reverse is undecorated.
The lady depicted is most likely the Chinese goddess Guan Yin. Porcelain decorated with this design is known as 'Guan Yin in the hall of the hundred children'. Two versions of the design are known, one with and one without the banderol filled with Chinese characters just above the box of the seated Guan Yin. The dishes were probably made from the end of the seventeenth century and for many decades. The design probably originated from China. Dishes like these were usually given to family members, whishing them rich offspring.
For an example of the version without the banderol, please see:
Guan Yin is the fertility goddess who left the greatest impact in the mortal world with many temples built in her honour. The ancient Chinese believed that after one prayed to her and brought a pair of embroidered shoes home, one would conceive a son soon. In some Chinese families today, she is a revered figure. Guan Yin is usually depicted as a beautiful, dignified and benevolent goddess carrying a child or holding a vase with a willow branch in it. These symbolise her duties of 'bestowing sons' and 'showering of compassion on mortal world'.
The Legend of Guan Yin Bringing Sons
Long ago there was a Taoist priest who needed the hearts of hundred young boys to produce the elixir of life. So he kidnapped hundred boys and locked them up in a dark room first.
Coincidentally on this night, Guan Yin was passing by and heard the cries of the children, She saw the priest sharpening his knife beside a pill on the table. Guan Yin flicked the pill away. She drew the priest out of the dark room and saved the children. However, Guan Yin did not know where the children stayed or who their parents were. Then she remembered hearing of an official in his fourties who was corrupt and childless. She thought of teaching him a lesson so she left the hundred children at his doorstep.
Upon discovering the children, the couple kept two children and decided to sell the rest for ten taels of silver per child. By dawn the next day. all the children had been taken away by many men and women. A magistrate's runner reported a young lady was responsible for it and she lived in the abode of Guan Yin. The couple knew it was the act of Guan Yin and died out of fright.
In this way, the story of Guan Yin bringing sons spread among the people. Now childless couples would pray to Guan Yin for a healthy baby. (Chinese Auspicious Culture, Beijing Foreign Language Press)
For a comparison between a Japanese and a Chinese version of the design, please see:
- H.A. Daendels, Catalogus tentoonstelling Japans blauw wit Porselein. Op Hollandse bestelling en in de Japanse smaak, exhibition catalogue Gemeentelijk Museum Het Princessehof, Leeuwarden 1981. Also Published as Mededelingenblad Nederlandse Vereniging van Vrienden van de Ceramiek, vols. 101/102, p.24, cat. 5a & 5b.
For an identically shaped, sized and decorated dish, please see:
- Japans porselein met blauwe decoraties uit de tweede helft van de zeventiende en de eerste helft van de achttiende eeuw. (D.F. Lunsingh Scheurleer in Mededelingenblad Nederlandse Vereniging van Vrienden van de Ceramiek, vols. 64/65, 1971), p.72, cat. 61.
For an identically shaped, sized and decorated dish with a banderol filled with Chinese characters, please see:
- Japans porselein met blauwe decoraties uit de tweede helft van de zeventiende en de eerste helft van de achttiende eeuw. (D.F. Lunsingh Scheurleer in Mededelingenblad Nederlandse Vereniging van Vrienden van de Ceramiek, vols. 64/65, 1971), p.72, cat. 62.
For a similarly decorated, Japanese bowl, please see:
- The Shibata Collection Part I, (The Kyushu Ceramic Museum, Kyushu, 1990), p.175, cat. 470.
- Complete Catalogue of the Shibata Collection, (The Kyushu Ceramic Museum, Kyushu 2003), p.396, cat. 3111.