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Erotica on Chinese Porcelain

I recently acquired a small famille rose decorated porcelain box with the Yongzheng six character mark on the bottom in underglaze blue. Its sideways in 2 rows instead of 2 columns if you know what I mean. I didn't see any reference on your site to explain the reasons behind the two variants even though I have seen the 2 rows in Christie's catalogues previously on authentic pieces.

Anyway, It is a beautiful approx 4" diameter yellow box with two ladies painted walking in a garden, (one seems like she is being assisted by the other) on the outside lid and a poem (in Chinese) on the inside lid. Inside the box itself is painted a man and a woman (perhaps the woman being assisted on the lid because it looks as though her feet are the small bound feet when you get to the inside) preparing to engage in shall we say...amour?

Do you know anything about Chinese erotica on porcelain?


Often connected to Daoism (Taoism)

Erotic subjects on Chinese market pieces is most often connected to Daoism and the belief in the balance of Yin and Yang. In this, the practicing of "amour" would strengthen the life spirits provided it was practiced by certain rules. To get information on this aspect one must look for information regarding Daoism (Taoism).

It is interesting that you noted the small feet. The bound feet was considered utterly exciting and the smell of these bound feet was especially appreciated by the real connoisseurs.

On export pieces this kind of decoration was copied from European erotic prints, presumed French, but I believe the English was into this kind of art too.

A third aspect is that in connection to the marriage Chinese woman was traditionally supplied with a kind of educational material - I have seen one "manual" in Shanghai once, cut into strips of bamboo, illustrating suggestions I felt was very modern. But, maybe nothing much have really changed in this since the time of Adam and Eve.

Regarding marks in three columns this started during the Kangxi (1662-1722) period and was continued into the Yongzheng (1723-1735) period with one difference - the Kangxi mark was very rarely written inside a double ring, when written in three columns, while I have never seen a Yongzheng mark of the correct period written in three columns *without* the double rings. There might be exceptions of course but I just though I should mention it.

After conferring with Mr Simon Ng at the University of Hong Kong he has supplied the following translation of the poem:

From your question we take it, you already know the box to be recent. Simon Ng also added he feels the style of the seal to be 20th century and that the box most probably is made shortly after the cultural revolution plus the fact that very little could have been made in Jingdezhen between 1950 to 1976. He also added that "naked women seems to have flatter chests in the earlier pieces", an observation to which I fully agree and also find a very nice way of putting it. If you would care to compare with the well known export pattern "The Judgement of Paris" you will find it hard to pick out the men from the women, and - indeed - back and front of their chests :-)

Sincerely,
Jan-Erik Nilsson



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