Early 18th century
Mid-late Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue
d: 15.7 cm
Nearly perfect condition: one very tiny, almost invisible hairline
From a Massachusettes, USA estate
This rare Kangxi period dish illustrates a scene from Romance of the Western Chamber, a story about the secret love affair between Zhang Sheng, a young scholar, and Cui Yingying, the daughter of a chief minister of the Tang court. When Yinying's family discovers the illicit romance, they allow Zhang Sheng to take their daughter's hand under one condition: he must pass the Imperial civil service examinations. This particular scene features a lovers' farewell as Zhang Sheng departs to take part in the exams, while Yingying and her maid sees him off. (The story ends on a happy note, with Zhang Sheng scoring high on the exams, winning high office, and marrying Yingying.)
This dish is marked with a four-character liti mark, ruoshen zhen cang (cherished and collected by ruo-shen), a popular studio mark during the Kangxi and Yongzheng periods. For a very similar dish, see British Museum Franks.188.