Transitional Weiqi Counter Box
A rare blue and white weiqi counter box
Transitional period, circa 1645-1655
Height: 14 cm.
Diameter: 15 cm.
*This absolutely brilliant early Qing dynasty weiqi counter box dates to a period called “Transition”, during which the Ming dynasty was falling, and the invading Qing dynasty had not yet taken full control over the south of China where the Imperial porcelain kilns of Jingdezhen was located.
With compressed globular body, and finely painted on the exterior with a continuous scene of Scholars. The figures are variously shown in conversation, reclining at leisure, playing the qin all beneath a band of pointed leaves. Regarding this bowl we recognize the powerful and solid shape from the Ming dynasty taste and notice that the fine and solid white clay body and glaze, almost “unctuous” to the touch, are of Imperial quality.
* Jan-Erik Nilsson
Provenance: Dutch private collection
-Transitional porcelain is Jingdezhen porcelain, manufactured at China’s principle ceramic production area, in the years during and after the transition from Ming to Qing. As with several previous changes of dynasty in China, this was a protracted and painful period of civil war. Though the start date of Qing rule is customarily given as 1644, when the last Ming emperor hanged himself as the capital fell, the war had really begun in 1618 and Ming resistance continued until 1683. During this period, the Ming system of large-scale manufacturing in the imperial porcelain factories, with orders and payments coming mainly from the imperial court, finally collapsed, and the officials in charge had to turn themselves from obedient civil servants into businessmen, seeking private customers, including foreign trading companies from Europe, Japanese merchants, and new domestic customers.
These new customers led to major changes in the style of porcelain, most of it painted in underglaze cobalt blue on white. A much more free approach was taken to painting, influenced by other Chinese genres of painting. Woodblock illustrations to books were often used as sources for images, or their style copied. An exhibition of porcelain from the period was called “The Liberated Brush”.
This situation lasted from 1620 to 1683, when the new Qing dynasty, after some decades struggling with Ming forces, finally resumed large-scale use of Jingdezhen for official wares under the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662–1722). The larger kilns and a major part of the town were destroyed in 1674 by Ming forces after the Revolt of the Three Feudatories had become a civil war. From 1680 to 1688 the reconstruction of the industry was under the control of Zang Yingxuan from the Qing Board of Works. Organised production of court porcelain had resumed by 1683, and the institution of forced labour replaced by waged employment. Succeeding controllers were appointed by the provincial administration up until 1726, when Beijing appointed Nian Xiyao.