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Unknown | China | Bowl with lotus flowers and peony 1662–1722 (Kangxi period) | Porcelain, underglaze blue | 9.8 x 20.6cm (diam.) | Gift of an anonymous donor through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Bowl with lotus flowers and peony 1662–1722 (Kangxi period)

Porcelain is one of China’s most celebrated artistic achievements. Produced for the great emperors, it has been traded, collected and imitated across the world for over 500 years. Emperor Yongle (reigned 1402–24) established the imperial porcelain factories in the fifteenth century in the ancient south-eastern pottery centre of Jingdezhen which has a history of producing ceramics since the Han dynasty (206BCE-220CE) and continues today.

The longest reigning Chinese emperor, Kangxi (reigned 1662–1722), continued to refine these traditions and is known for producing some of the finest blue-and-white wares. During the political chaos at Jingdezhen in the seventeenth century, the kilns were destroyed in 1675. Rebuilt in 1677 under the order of Kangxi, the porcelain industry was re-organised and artisans perfected the bright designs in cobalt blue on faultless white grounds.

A rich example of Kangxi porcelain, Bowl with lotus flowers and peony is decorated in popular floral motifs with a scrolling design of lotus flowers around the exterior, a band of twelve flowers along the inner rim and a further band of six lotus flowers on the cavetto. Enclosed by two blue circles is a central peony, known as the ‘King of flowers’ it symbolises wealth, honour, love and feminine beauty.