The distinctive form of this Transitional porcelain bowl was popular during the Shunzhi Period (1644-1661). The blue and white design of the present example is the most commonly encountered pattern on Shunzhi porcelain bowls of this form.
Apocryphal Marks on Transitional and Kangxi Porcelain :
Apocryphal marks are frequently encountered on Chinese porcelain particularly on Kangxi Blue and White Porcelain (1662-1722). These retrospective six character marks started to be used during the chaotic end of the Ming dynasty at a time referred to in the West as the Transitional period. From what I have seen it appears as if they were first used during the reign of Tianqi (1621-1627), at this period they are commonly encountered on pieces made for the Japanese market but are more rarely found on objects made for the West. Only a select few Ming marks were `copied`, the six character mark of the Ming Emperor Chenghua who reigned from 1465 to 1487 being by far the most common, other Ming marks include Jiajing (1522-1566) and less frequently Wanli (1573-1620). These marks were not added to the piece to deceive, but more as a sign of reverence, and maybe even aspiration, to the great potters of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Occasionally they are used on pieces copying Ming Porcelain shapes and designs, these objects were probably made for collectors who could not afford the Ming original. The marks on these `copies` are often drawn in the calligraphic style of the Ming originals.
Fu Dog, Buddhist Lion, Fo Dog :
When Buddhist priests, or possibly traders, brought stories to China about stone dogs guarding the entry to Indian Buddhist temples, Chinese sculptors modelled statues after native dogs for use outside their temples. The mythic version of the animal, was known as the Dog of Fo, the word Fo being Chinese for Buddha. The Buddhist version of the dog was originally introduced to Han China as the protector of dharma and these dogs have been found in religious art as early as c.200 BC. Gradually they were incorporated as guardians of the Chinese Imperial dharm. However, Chinese sensitivity metamorphosed the dog into a lion, even though lions were not indigenous to China, since this seems more appropriate to the dignity of an emperor when he used the beasts to guard his gates. The mythic dog is sometimes associated with feng shui, and are often called Fu Dogs. Fu means `happiness` in Chinese; however, the term `Fu Dog` and its variant Foo Dog, are not used in Chinese. Instead, they are known as Rui Shi (`auspicious lions`) or simply Shi (lions). There are various styles of imperial guardian lions reflecting influences from different time periods, imperial dynasties, and regions of China. These styles vary in their artistic detail and adornment as well as in the depiction of the lions from fierce to serene.
Peonies are the most commonly encountered flower on Chinese porcelain, indeed in Chinese art in general. There are two cultivated types of peony commonly depicted, the tree peony Paeonia Suffruicosa (Mudan) and the herbaceous peony P.Lactiflora (Shaoyao). Both have rich exuberant flowers with thin silk like petals but the plants are rather different to each other. The tree peony is not in fact a tree but a deciduous shrub, sometimes rather large and sprawling, it has irregular woody stems. It shares a similar leaf and flower form to the herbaceous peony but they are not close in other ways. The Chinese refer to the peony as the `King of flowers` and are seen as equivalent to the first rank among officials. The flowers are closely associated with royalty because they have been grown in imperial gardens since the Sui dynasty (581-618). The peony is one of the flowers of the four seasons and represents the Spring. It symbolizes wealth and honour, honour in the sense of high rank, having an official position, or high social status.