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Chinese Porcelain Marks

Incised brown ground base marks on Chinese Porcelain

In this section I have together with Simon Ng tried to trace down the incised brown ground base marks on Chinese Porcelain. One would think there would have been at least one of those marks published in any book on Chinese porcelain book published around the 1870's until the end of the Qing dynasty but, so far I have failed to find one.

Exactly when this kind of marks first started to be used is actually not known. Traditionally the "Guangxu" period (1875-1908) is given as the starting point, and that assumption has been followed by us in suggesting dates for individual pieces here and on other places on this site.

When looking for reference pieces of porcelain it seems like the feature of adding brown etched sections or borders to the enamel decoration begins at the earliest during the Tongzhi 1862-74 period. From this period I have seen vases with enamels and broad bands of brown etched decoration in the shape of roof tiles, adding a three dimensional aspect to the decoration.

Somewhat later, and I feel pretty sure this is during the early Guangxu period, we get brown etched borders with quatrefoil/ruyi medallions inserted, and it is from this period I personally think we have the first brown etched marks. Some of them say Chenghua and a few seems to say Kangxi. The idea of falling back to these two periods were very much in vogue during the Empress Dowager's period from the 1860s to the first decade of the 20th century, which probably is the starting period of this mark.

Decorations with brown etched parts such as borders, bands, animal heads and raised dragons etc are still produced and any such object can also be perfectly modern. The square brown mark itself seems to be copying the appearance of Japanese Satsuma marks who are often drawn in gold within a brown medallion, which assumption also gives us another reference for the time frame to look for.

The only firm date I am so far certain about is on one piece confirmed as having been bought in the 1940's. I would be happy for any further information on some dated pieces or any archaeological data that supports any firm date at all on these pieces.

Mark: Qianlong Nian Zhi
1545. Vase with rose mandarin decoration of warriors in famille rose enamels. Incised mark: Qianlong Nian Zhi - "Qianlong Period Made". Tentatively mid 20th century due to the use of the Qianlong reign name in the mark.

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Mark: Kangxi Nian Zhi
610. Kangxi Nian Zhi - "Kangxi Period Made". Crackled glaze pieces with five clawed dragons surrounding the flaming pearl. Handles with plum blossoms enhanced with white enamels. On one side a crane with a baby hanging in string from its beak. Probably Republic (1912-1949) period.

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616. Kangxi Nian Zhi - "Kangxi Period Made". Crackled glaze with enamels. The brown borders are typical for Guangxu period, still the agressively bright enamels indicates a late date in the period, c. 1900.

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72. Kangxi Nian Zhi - "Kangxi Period Made". Honorary mark on Chinese export, possibly ca 1900-1920

Mark: Chenghua Nian Zhi
57. Mark, probably Chenghua Nian Zhi. Chinese export porcelain mark, tentatively dated to the 1960's
678. Mark, probably Chenghua Nian Zhi. Chinese export porcelain mark, tentatively dated to the 1960's
32. Mark Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Honorary mark on Chinese export, ca. 1900-1920
118. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Honorary mark on Chinese export, ca. 1900-1920
1542. Vase. Mark Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Crackled glaze with enameled decoration and etched brown borders. From the style of the enameled decoration tentative date early to mid 20th century.

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257. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Mark on blue and white "Dog of Fu" vase. Late Qing/modern.
612. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Crackled glaze pieces with five clawed dragons surrounding the flaming pearl. Handles with plum blossoms enhanced with white enamels. On one side a crane overlapping a turtle. Probably Republic (1912-1949) period.

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788. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Crackled glaze pieces with warriors. 1960's or later.

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611. Mark: Chenghua Nian Zhi meaning: "Chenghua Period Made". Crackled glaze with enameled decoration. Bought empty c. 1980. Date: Probably 1960's.

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839. Mark: Chenghua Nian Zhi meaning: "Chenghua Period Made". Crackled glaze with very thin enamel decoration as if it was printed. Date: Probably 1970's or later.

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307. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Early 20th century. Late Guangxu to Early Republic.
1378. Vase with applied decoration. Mark Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Dated according to live family memory to "at least early 20th century". Probably Late Guangxu to Early Republic.

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770. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Late 20th century, post "Cultural Revolution".

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842. Chenghua Nian Zhi - "Chenghua Period Made". Probably Republic (1912-1949) period.

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83. Chenghua Nian Zao - "Chenghua Period Made". On crackled glaze pieces with enameled decoration and often etched brown border/s similar to the mark from Guangxu period up until today. Mid 20th century or later.

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898. Chenghua Nian Zao - "Chenghua Period Made". On crackled glaze pieces with enameled decoration and often etched brown border/s similar to the mark from Guangxu period up until today. Mid 20th century or later.

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153. Chenghua Nian Zao - "Chenghua Period Made". Mid 20th century or later.
1392. Chenghua Nian Zao - "Chenghua Period Made". On crackled glaze pieces with enameled decoration and often etched brown border/s similar to the mark from Guangxu period up until today. Mid 20th century.

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UNKNOWN MARKS / RECENT ADDITIONS
191. Mark on crackled glaze porcelain bowl. Guangxu period/Late 19th Century.
1384. Unknown mark, on crackled Ge type glaze vase with etched brown application. The vase looks modern in my view and I would at least consider a second half 20th century Macao ware.

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Pictures and pieces making up this section are from my personal reference collection and are not for sale. Pieces have also been donated by Simon Ng, City University of Hong Kong, N K Koh, Singapore, Hans Mueller, USA. Hans Slager, Belgium, William Turnbull, Canada and Tony Jalin Zhang, Beijing. Readers are encouraged to contribute any insights or further information you might have.

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