A Fine and Rare Kangxi Porcelain Dish After a Book Imperially Commissioned by Kangxi in 1696, Gengzhi Tu (Pictures of Tilling and Weaving). This Very Well Painted Lively Scene Depicts Scene 17, Flailing the Rice. Four Men Can be Seen Hard at Work While an Assistant Pours Cups of Rice Wine or Tea, Their Living Accommodation is on the Right with a Blue Robe Hanging to Dry. A Seven Character Quatrain (Poem) Ends with a Gold and Iron-Red Seal Reading `Bao He Tai`.
Condition: A Large section of the rim with an associated smaller section restuck and in addition a small chip to the back filled. The restuck area was previously riveted and is a maximum of c.30 x 4. mm. There is also a rim crack and small glaze frits filled.
Size: Diameter : 28 cm (11 inches)
References:A Kangxi porcelain of this type is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, click on the image for details. Gallery location: Ceramics Study Galleries, China, room 136, case 2, shelf 4. Website location http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O493798/dish/ Description on their website Dish of porcelain, saucer-shaped. Painted with overglaze enamels in the famille verte palette and slightly gilded. The decoration consists of an illustration of the manufacture of silk, a gold seal reads: `bao he tai he`.
Gengzhi Tu, Pictures of Tilling and Weaving :
The best known version of this book is the one commissioned by Kangxi, however its origins are much older. The original Gengzhi Tu was compiled by Lou Shou (1090-1162) during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was first published around 1237 and contained 45 illustrations – 21 scenes of tilling and 24 on the cultivation of rice – accompanied by poems. The depiction of agricultural was seen both as a reference to practical farming and as a metaphor for a well-ordered Confucian society. Kangxi commissioned and partly wrote his own version in 1696, it is also known as the Yuzhi (imperial) Gengzhi Tu. Kangxi wrote the preface to the book which was printed in brown ink, the book was illustrated throughout with woodcut prints of agricultural scenes by Zhu Gui after Jiao Bingzhen. Jiao Bingzhen was employed in the Imperial Board of Astronomy. He was one of the first Chinese artists to study Western perspective under European missionary artists also serving on the board. Their influence is evident in his illustrative work. Each woodcut has an integral poem and faced by a single page poem, possibly by Kangxi himself. Above each illustration are seven character quatrains (poems) that were originally thought to have been composed and written by the emperor. It is now generally thought that they were composed by scholars at court and written in imitation of the Emperor`s style of hand-writing (Sören Edgren. Chinese rare books in American collections China House Gallery, China Institute in America, 1984, item 38). The forty-six woodcut prints show a scene of contemporary Qing life relating to the growth of silk-worms, the production of silk and agriculture. The motives behind Kangxi`s commissioning of the book are, like the emperor himself, rather complex. I suspect that part of his motive was to show a continuity, a connection between his reign and the reigns of successful emperors of the past. This would show homage to emperors past and at the same time elevate his Manchu leadership to that of great ages of the Song and Ming dynasties. Like the original Song Dynasty book there are strong Confucian values instilled with the production of Kangxi`s book. It can also be seen as a mirror of his pride in the successful agrarian culture of his country. Kangxi travelled widely in China and took great interest in every detail of it from the imperial court to the peasants in the field, how many hours they worked, their pay as well as their everyday life. He was very aware of the fact that China`s wealth depended on the work produced by the common people and this book is a tangible reminder of that. Despite the books imperial connections the few pieces of porcelain produced after designs from the book are not imperial. They are exceptionally well painted but most, if not all, lack imperial marks. It does however seam likely the were made for the Chinese market.