Oil Lamp


© Tai Mantis


Oil Lamp, 14th Century Blue and White
Ming - Hongwu (1368 - 1398)

15.7 centimeters diameter, 22.2 centimeters height

Blue and white decoration with a dragon winding around the neck and becoming the handle. Below is a phoenix. The two together signify a man and a woman. They are surrounded by scattered stylized clouds and flames. The underside of the top level is decorated to depict the flaming pearl. The three-clawed dragon is common to the preceding Yuan dynasty. The foot is skirted with a simple wave scroll.

The handle is from the mold, not free-form method. Early Chinese custom places this either in a temple or a tomb. The heavy wear suggests the origin being that of a temple. Almost definitely one of a pair.

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

Zhu Yuanzhang

Founder and 1st Emperor of the Ming Dynasty

Reign title Hongwu, 1368 - 1398

During the reign of Hongwu, about 30 personal kilns were included with the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, bringing the total number of kilns to just over 50 by the end of the reign. About 20 of those producing porcelain for the Imperial court. Competition between the individual kilns was evident, and this contributed towards improved quality which of course pleased the court. However, this blend of both personal and Imperial kilns resulted in a wide range of quality for Hongwu porcelain. Many of these personal kilns were later to become Imperial kilns during the reign of Xuande.

Porcelain produced from personal kilns is usually heavier, as compared to the delicate, more refined pieces of the Imperial kilns and those of later reigns as well. Working with less refined materials, personal kilns would often fall below par on the scale of whiteness. Firing flaws and visible impurities were also present.

The body is dense and white with a thick glaze. An average whiteness of 8 on a scale of 1-10. The succeeding reign of Yongle could be 9. Min-yao (provincial) falls in the 3 to 6 range for comparison.

There is little or no sign of the trace element manganese to the blue cobalt areas since only imported (overland route) cobalt was available. Imported cobalt was void of the element which, if present during firing, would result in a grayish tint versus the bright, deep (Mohammedan) blue.

The decoration tends to be simple, not refined. The subject scenes are very similar to the preceding Yuan dynasty, since many of the artists were the same. Floral scenes, use of the mythical dragon and phoenix, various other animals such as deer, fish and aquatic scenes, etc, all done in a bold manner. With the exception of some Imperial pieces known to exist, borders were kept simple with the use of waves, classic scroll, key-fret and diaper band, etc. Panels were usually large and not crowded.

The footing usually thick and deep, and the glazed underbase introduced in contrast to the unglazed style of Yuan. This property is significant in helping separate the Yuan from early Ming. Keep in mind though, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Read more here , by Tai Mantis


Daruma Museum, Japan

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