18th century Chinese export, China
Height: 27 cm, 10.6 inches
This blue and white porcelain vessel is delicately painted with naturalistic scenes of birds, flowers, insects and trees. An orange, black and crimson rooster is painted perching on a blossom tree on two panels. The rooster (gongji) is an ancient yang symbol associated with the sun chasing away the darkness and ignorance as the roster crows at daybreak. Its name gong, which in this context means male animal, was also the highest feudal rank, and ji ‘chicken’ is a pun for ji ‘auspicious’. Thus in Chinese art the bird is often associated with depictions of rank or official success.
The background is painted in blue and white with scrolling flowers. The hexagonal shape of the body is replicated by the same shape of the spout. The neck, which rises to a flaring hexagonal mouth, is painted with cicadas, often used depict rebirth or immortality in early Chinese art.
Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, a completed collection, Part II Yuand and Ming Dnasty Porcelains, by Regina Krahl and John Ayers.