Rare Kangxi Blue and White Porcelain Dish

Late 17th Century

A Rare Kangxi (1662-1722) Blue and White Porcelain Dish, late 17th Century. This rare dish is unusual in that it combines two very different elements, it looks back to Kraak porcelain but the subject is take from The Romance of the Western Chamber. The form, with its barbed rim, alternating moulded broad and narrow panels, harks back to Kraak porcelain of the recent past. The last V.O.C. records of Kraak ware shipments are from the 1650s. The painted decoration of the Kraak style panels isn’t a copy of Kraak ware, perhaps it should be seen as reminiscent of the Kraak style. The central decoration is entirely unlike Kraak ware, it is a scene depicting Zhang Sheng and Cui Ying Ying from the famous play The Romance of the Western Chamber. Despite being an important work of Chinese literature, the subject matter was frequently used on Chinese export porcelain. It appears on Transitional blue and white (c.1620-1680), but it was perhaps, even more popular during the reign of Kangxi (1662-1722) and Yongzheng (1723-1735). It was not just reserved for blue and white, it can be seen in Famille Verte, Rough de Fer and Famille Rose pallets. Of course Westerners were entirely unaware of the story behind the designs. Nevertheless, they were curious and engaging, so much so that the scenes were copied in Europe to decorate porcelain and pottery. Scroll down for other porcelain with with scenes from The Romance of the Western Chamber ; A Famille Verte Tile and a Dutch Decorated beaker.

Romance of the West Chamber / Xi Xiang Ji :
The scene of Zhang Sheng, a young scholar clambering over a wall to meet his young lover Cui Yingying appears frequently on Chinese porcelain of the 17th and 18th century. This is the most recognisable of a large group of designs taken from the Romance of the West Chamber. It is based on a scene in Act III of this famous Chinese literary work written by the Yuan Dynasty playwright Wang Shifu (c.1260-1336) it was set during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It has had an enduring appeal, some of the very first narrative scenes decorated on Chinese blue and white porcelain are taken from this story, they were produced during the Yuan dynasty in the mid-14th century and the designs have been used ever since. The story is of young lovers consummating their love without parental approval, and has been called `China`s most popular love comedy` and a `lover`s bible`. At the same time, some have called it potentially dangerous, as there are stories of readers pining away under its influence. There are problems for those of us who wish to identify individual scenes depicted in the West Chamber, these are clearly set out by Craig Clunas in his excellent paper presented to the O.C.S. (A Literary Theme in Chinese Porcelain Decoration, a paper read by Mr Craig Clunas on 11th May 1982, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramics Society 1981-1982). He points out that it is particularly difficult to identify the designs produced during the Qing dynasty. One reason given is there are few reproductions of later editions of the work to compare the designs too, but more problematically the designer, as opposed to the painter, might well have interpreted the scene without any direct reference to the original woodcut. The designs taken from the West Chamber were especially popular during the Kangxi period (1662-1722) particularly in blue and white but they also occur frequently on famille verte of the period. The scene of Zhang Sheng clambering over a wall can be found on blue and white porcelain teaware recovered from the Ca Mau Cargo (Yongzheng period 1723-1735), this particular design was also produced at the period in famille rose enamels.


In good condition, one small chip (see the photograph gallery below). Some minor glaze chips and minor fritting. Minor wear, the light scratches visible in the photograph have now been cleaned.
Diameter 28 cm (11 inches).
From a Dutch Private Collection.
Stock number



Scenes From The Romance of the Western Chamber 

Robert McPherson Antiques : See sold Archive.


A Finely Painted Famille Verte Porcelain Plaque, Late Kangxi Period c.1700-1720. Depicting a Scene from the `Romance of the West` Chamber, Xi Xiang Ji Taken From a Woodcut. Now Framed in a Later, Probably Late 19th Century, Wood Frame Carved to Simulate Bamboo.


An early 18th Century Chinese Export Porcelain beaker, decorated with a large incised band of flowering lotus and simple under-glazed cobalt blue border with a gilded diaper pattern. Enamelled in Holland c.1730-1740 with a scene from Act III of `The Romance of the Western Chamber` by the Yuan Dynasty playwright Wang Shifu (c.1260-1336). It depicts Zhang Sheng, a young scholar clambering over a wall to meet his young lover Cui Yingying. The branches of weeping willow have been replaced with pine and the perspective of the wall misunderstood. The play refers to "The Branches of Weeping Willow and The Flowers Act as Curtains, the Green Moss Serves as a Specious and Embroidered Couch".