A rare large carved ding 'lotus' basin, Northern Song dynasty, 11th-12th century




A rare large carved Ding 'lotus' basin, Northern Song dynasty, 11th-12th centuryEstimate HK$5,000,000 – HK$7,000,000 ($648,180 - $907,452). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The basin is finely potted with steep rounded walls rising from a recessed base to a slightly flared rim. The interior is freely carved with meandering lotus blossoms, and the exterior with six notches forming six very shallow lobes. It is covered with a transparent ivory-white glaze pooling in the recesses. The rim is bound in a metal band. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm.), diam., Japanese wood box

Provenance: Sen Shu Tey, Tokyo 

LiteratureSen Shu Tey, The Collection of Chinese Art, Tokyo, 2006, p. 53, no. 61 
Christie's, The Classical Age of Chinese Ceramics: An Exhibition of Song Treasures from the Linyushanren Collection, Hong Kong, 2012, pp. 42-43, no. 9

ExhibitedSen Shu Tey, Special Exhibition Run Through 10 Years, Tokyo, 2006, Catalogue, no. 61 
Christie's, The Classical Age of Chinese Ceramics: An Exhibition of Song Treasures from the Linyushanren Collection, Hong Kong, 22 to 27 November 2012; New York, 15 to 20 March 2013; London, 10 to 14 May 2013, Catalogue, no. 9

NotesDing basins of this form and decoration are relatively rare. A very similar ‘lotus’ basin is in the Tokyo National Museum, published in the Oriental Ceramics: the Worlds Great Collections, vol. 1: Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1982, colour plates, no. 9. Two other Ding basins with six-lobed sides but carved on both the interior and exterior with lotus scrolls are known. The first is in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, illustrated in Asahi Shimbun, Song Ceramics, Tokyo, 1999, p. 67, no. 30. The second is in the Palace Museum Collection, illustrated in Selection of Ding Ware: the Palace Museum’s Collection and Archaeological Excavation, Beijing, 2012, p. 136, no. 52. A basin of similar form and size but lacking the notches on the exterior are in the collection of National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated by Tsai Meifen, Decorated Porcelains of Dingzhou: White Ding Wares from the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2014, p. 97, no. II-54. Two larger basins also with rounded sides are in the National Palace Museum collection; one is carved with wave patterns at the base of interior below a band of daylily scroll and daylily scroll on the exterior, illustrated in ibid., p. 136, no. II-85; the other one is carved with fish and waterfowls scene on the interior and lotus scroll on the exterior, illustrated in ibid., p. 137, no. II-86. Compare also a small number of Ding basins with foliate rims, such as a pair of Ding basins, each carved with a single lotus spray at the base of interior, in the National Palace Museum Collection, illustrated in ibid., p. 132, no. II-81.82; and another example carved with a larger lotus spray, also in the National Palace Museum, illustrated in ibid., pp. 130-131, no. II-80. 

Lotus is a popular decorative theme on Ding wares, as it has been traditionally revered for its quality as 'rising from the mud but is unsullied, bathed by clear waves but is not seductive', written in a famous poem, Passion for the Lotus by Song scholar-official Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073). Another symbolic meaning of the lotus is derived from its phonetic similarity with the phrase ‘incorruptible’. Therefore, vessels decorated with lotus were particularly suitable for the scholar-official class. Large basins like this were sometimes used in the serving of alcohol. The exact function remains unclear, though scholars from the Palace Museum have suggested that basins of this type may well be warming bowls, containing hot water to heat wine ewers that would have been placed within. This theory is suggested by a number of Song mural paintings and large number of paired ewer and basin in qingbai wares. However, it is extremely rare to find a paired example in Ding ware. As indicated by a Yuan mural painting, basins of this type could also serve as ajiuhai (wine sea) wine basin, paired with a ladle to serve alcohol in banquets.