Chinese porcelain blue and white lantern-form ovoid jar and cover painted in a continuous scene with a seated qilin, his right front leg raised, in a fenced landscape scene looking at a peacock in flight amongst v-shaped grass, pine branches, rockwork, camellia, bamboo and plantain, beneath stylised clouds and flames, between anhua bands of scrolling flowerheads and ‘leaves’, the neck with lappets, the cover painted with a seated white rabbit amongst rockwork, v-shaped grass and aster above a band of flowerheads and scrolls.

Transitional, Chongzhen, circa 1630-1640.

11 ½ inches, 29.2 cm high.

Provenance & Additional Information

  • From a private English collection, Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, collected in the 1920’s by the great-grandparents and thence by descent, and recorded in the 1960’s family inventory of the large manor house.
  • A similar ovoid jar and cover in the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Canada is illustrated by Patricia F. Ferguson in Cobalt Treasures, The Bell Collection of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, no. 32, p. 38, where the author notes “this innovative shape first appeared in the Transitional period during the fall of the Ming dynasty, when the private factories turned to the scholar officials for patronage. The cover and sides are decorated with auspicious beasts in a lush, terraced landscape. Qilin were legendary animals with hooves like a goat, which were said to appear in times of peace and harmony. Xieze, animals with paws, scaly chests and flaming auras, were reputed to be able to distinguish between good and evil. They were a symbol equated with the imperial censorate, who reported directly to the emperor, maintained law and order, and monitored the bureaucrats.”
  • A smaller ovoid jar also painted with a seated qilin dated to 1636, gift of Gerald Reitlinger is illustrated by Jessica Harrison-Hall in Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, no. 12;76, p. 382.
  • A pair of covered ovoid jars painted with flowers, butterflies and a kingfisher are illustrated by S. T. Wei Jean Martin in Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, no. 253/4, pp. 222/3.
  • The qilin is a fabulous creature with a scaly skin of five-colours, resembling a stag it has the body of a deer, the forehead of a wolf, the tail of an ox and the hooves of a horse. The qilin is benevolent to all living creatures and its single fleshy horn makes the gentle beast unfit for war. It is a symbol of good omen and is reputed to appear only during the reign of a benevolent king. As a mythical beast, it symbolises longevity, grandeur, felicity, illustrious offspring and wise administration; The peacock, kongque, symbolises the phrase ‘may the world be enlightened’. The peacock is a bird of culture, its presence brings civilization to the world, it has nine virtues: proper appearance, clear voice, graceful walk, punctuality, restrained appetite, contentment, loyalty, morality and the ability to learn from its faults. These two auspicious creatures are most appropriate for the period when this piece was painted, with the final decline of the Ming dynasty the artist was indicating the symbolic meaning and the wish for the above-mentioned virtues to exist in the world.


Good condition, the cover with two inner-rim chips, the jar with inner rim nibbles.