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 White porcelain handled pot

The white porcelain handled pot has a flaring mouth, constricted neck, and sloping shoulders, both sides of which have an apricot-leaf form standing out from the surface. Its slender spout is as tall as the opening, and the vessel has a reticulated flat handle. This type of flat pot probably dates from the last half of the sixteenth or first half of the seventeenth century. Accompanying it is a cup in the shape of an inverted bell, its flaring rim, deep body, and short base reflecting a form popular during the Xuande reign (1426-1435).

 Gem-inlaid golden handled pot

This gem-inlaid golden handled pot is part of a wine vessel set. The cover of this melon-shaped pot is rendered in two levels and topped with a semi-precious stone knob. The spout, handle, and body are also inlaid with turquoise and semi-precious stones, the shape quite complex and ingeniously designed. In front is a large wine-warming bowl inlaid with gems in continuous bead and floral patterning, accompanied by a small golden cup and tray. The cup has a flaring rim, raised foot, and plain body with two "ruyi"-shaped" handles welded onto the sides, the rim featuring a continuous bead design. The use of precious inlays on gold and silver vessels was popular in the middle and late Ming dynasty, this set featuring gorgeous decoration much in the manner of the imperial court.

The floral-stem peach-shaped white jade cup is named after its floral-stem handle. Its tray here is in the form of a curving lotus leaf, the inside of which is decorated with shallow vein engraving and the center raised to serve as a cup stand. Jade peach-shaped cups appeared in the Southern Song period and became especially numerous later in the Ming dynasty. In the middle and late Ming, under the influence of Taoism, such vessels shaped like a peach (symbolizing immortality) became extremely popular due to their auspicious overtones of longevity. Generally speaking, Ming jade peach-shaped cups have more realistic stems, and few examples have a tray, with fewer still rendered in the shape of a lotus leaf.

 White porcelain vessel

The body of the white porcelain vessel depicted here is decorated with a red heavenly horse among waves, similar to the flying horse and auspicious clouds often seen on porcelains after the Chenghua (1465-1487) and during the Jiajing era (1522-1566). Although only a portion of the decoration is revealed, the coarse lines of the horse's hair along with the patterned flame and cloud forms accord with imperial wares of the Jiajing court, evidence of a decline in precision painting at the time.

Courtyard Refinements: Potted Scenes and Plants

Ming literati emphasized beauty in garden life, using potted plants and scenery to embellish the surroundings and add lofty elegance to their residences. The garden vegetation found in "The Eighteen Scholars" includes various types of trees (Buddhist pine, paulownia, locust, Chinese sweet plum), flowers (peony, lily), ornamental foliage plants (palm, calamus, plantain), bamboo (mottled bamboo), and grasses (mimosa).

 Cylindrical planter,shallow rectangular blue planter
 Purple spittoon-shaped flower ″zun″ vase

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Zither)

This cylindrical planter features a base of blue and green glaze, its body divided into three levels of decoration. The top has auspicious floral patterning, the middle winding lotuses, and the bottom hooked "ruyi" motifs. Next to it is a shallow rectangular blue planter with a flat extending rim and a short body supported by four cloud-shaped feet. A purple spittoon-shaped flower "zun" vase in front also sits on a wide, flaring stand, which itself rests on a platform planter. The body is divided into lotus blossom forms supported by "ruyi"-shaped feet.

 Rectangular planter

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Go)

Resting on four cloud-shaped feet, this rectangular planter has a shallow body and a flat extending rim with an "S"-shaped divider in the middle. This is a combination wet-dry planter, with one part holding water and the other earth for both calamus and mimosa plants. Placed within the planter is a Jun porcelain bowl in the shape of an inverted bell that rests inside a purple Jun porcelain drum-stud washer basin to hold the water seeping through, thus serving both aesthetic and practical functions.

Courtyard Rockeries

An exotic Lake Tai garden rock appears craggy and archaic sitting within a delicate raised platform planter with a foliated rim. The stand fluted, the rock stands in the middle to add beauty to the scenery. The marble stand in the form of an inverted lotus used for a rockery in an imperial garden is pure white in color, fine-grained, and mellow in appearance.

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Calligraphy)

With roots exposed, the miniature pine tree has a strong and verdant canopy featuring distinct layers in beautiful forms. The old pine is in a rectangular planter with light purple glaze. It has a flat extending rim and straight walls, the bottom supported by four cloud-shaped feet. It is complemented by a pair of potted calamus plants. One is in a Jun porcelain planter shaped like an inverted bell and placed in a three-legged drum-stud Jun porcelain washer. The other is in a spittoon-shaped flower "zun" vase.

 Rectangular planter with light purple glaze,Jun porcelain planter shaped like an inverted bell,Three-legged drum-stud Jun porcelain washer,Spittoon-shaped flower ″zun″ vase