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KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)


Height: 19 inches



Gerard Hawthorn, Ltd., London, 2001



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 

The Colors of Earth, Kangxi Era Porcelain

from the Stamen Collection, 2002, no. 23.



Three sides of the vibrantly enameled vase are each painted with a large scale depiction of one of the Star Gods.  From the early Ming dynasty the three star gods, Fuxing, Luxing and Shouxing were and remain among the most popular of deities. The earliest mention of the trio seems to be in a play by Zhu Youdun, grandson of the first Ming emperor that was published in 1443.  A painting dated to 1454, currently in the Guimet Museum, is illustrated in Stephen Little, Taoism and the Arts of China, Chicago, 2001, no. 91, and according to the author is one of the oldest representations of the group.  In the same entry, Little mentions that although the group is associated with the Daoist pantheon they are not mentioned in texts in the Ming Daoist Canon (Daozang).  They seem to have evolved from popular religion and were raised to the imperial level during the Ming and have remained significant auspicious symbols since.


Fuxing is associated with Jupiter, the luck planet. Luxing is the personification of Zhang Xian, a high official of the Shu dynasty and the constellation Ursa Majoris, or the sixth star of the Wenchang Cluster known as the ‘Jade Balance of Fate’ and Shouxing, the oldest of the three, is the star of the south pole, Canopus, the second brightest star of the night sky. Together the Sanxing form a wish for good fortune, success in one’s job and long life.


A quadrangular vase with a similar subject in the Guimet Museum is illustrated in Michel Beurdeley and Guy Raindre, Qing Porcelain, London, 1987, p. 70, no. 86. Another with raised figure decoration from the Albert J. Mercher Collection was sold at Sotheby’s New York, 22nd March 2011, lot 107.  A cylindrical vase with the three star gods on a powder blue ground is illustrated in S.W. Bushell, Ceramic Art, Illustrated Examples From the Collection of W. T. Walters, New York, 1980 ed., p. 186, fig. 244.



Text and images on this page appear courtesy of ​

Sotheby's New York and are excerpted from:

Sotheby's New York. Embracing Classic Chinese Culture: Kangxi Porcelain from the Jie Rui Tang Collection. March 14, 2014, p. 46. [exhibition catalog].

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