A pair of large Chinese imari dishes depicting a scene from The Romance of the Western Chamber. Yongzheng period.
Decorated in the traditional imari palette, with a scene from Act III of The Romance of the Western Chamber (Xi Xiang Ji) by the Yuan Dynasty playwright Wang Shifu (c.1260-1336), with Cui Yingying awaiting the arrival of Zhang Sheng. On the rim, a blue treillis and four reserves with Chinese boys.
- Period :
- Late Kangxi (1662-1722), early Yongzheng period (1723-1735), circa 1720/25
- 10.62 in. (27 cm)
- Reference :
This pattern looks a bit unusual. Chinese Export Porcelain pieces depicting The Romance of the Western Chamber are more common in the famille rose and famille verte palette.
For a large dish of the same period with a very similar border, see Howard, The Choice of the Private Trader, The Private Market in Chinese Export Porcelain illustrated from the Hodroff Collection, 1994, p. 57, no. 30.
Xi Xiang Ji is a well-known tale, with origins in the 8th/9th Century, written in the Yuan Dynasty (13th/14th Century) as a play. It has remained popular ever since, and has been reprinted many times. It is the woodblock prints used to illustrate the text which have, throughout the ages, inspired the decoration of scenes from the tale on porcelain The story tells of the romance between Zhang Sheng, a talented but poor scholar, and Cui Yingying, a beautiful maiden, whose mother will not allow the couple to marry, and sends Zhang away to the capital to seek scholarly success. While on his way to take the civil service examination, Zhang is instrumental in rescuing Yingying from a group of bandits. Her hand in marriage had been offered by her mother to whoever could save her, but she subsequently reneges on her promise. In the end he is successful and claims Yingying as his bride.
This scene shows Zhang climbing over a wall onto a terrace where Yingqing is waiting, and the couple meet for a secret tryst. The scene depicted is most likely from the play The West Chamber, where the scholar Zhang climbs over the garden wall to see Cui Yingying (the lady seated at the table).