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KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)


Diameter: 18 ¼ inches



Collection of Konrad Bernheimer, Germany



Seated, wearing humble attire, the elder statesman Jiang Ziya fishes by the side of the Wei River. Across from him stands King Wen of Zhou and his entourage. Before heading out on the hunting trip, the king had sought out a prophesy and was told he would return without game but with something much more valuable; a teacher. Upon meeting the white haired dignitary, King Wen of Zhou recognized that this was no ordinary fisherman and respectfully engaged him in conversation. Years before Jiang, disappointed by the corruption and dissipation of King Zhou of Shang, had exiled himself to a life of quiet contemplation. Legends report that he would fish without hooks or bait, confident that the fish would come to him when the time was right.

Jiang Ziya, impressed with the Zhou ruler, returns with him to court and provides the king with a winning strategy to topple the Shang rulers. The artist evokes this famous tale of the past to shine a favorable light on the reign of the Kangxi emperor. The story conveys the humility necessary to be a great ruler. Comparison to King Wen of Zhou would provide reassurance of the young Manchurian emperor’s sincere desire to rule well and perhaps illustrate his willingness to heed sage advice.

Interestingly a nearly identical plate is in the Chateau de Fontainebleau outside of Paris. The 16th century chateau was one of the royal residences inhabited by Napoleon III of France (r.1852-1870) and his wife, the Empress Eugenie. In 1861, the empress comissioned the architect Alexis Pacard to create rooms to incorporate many of the Chinese works of art which had arrived in Paris following the Anglo-French sacking of Yuanming Yuan. The dish at Fontainebleau, formerly in the Qing court collection, is of the same quality, size and has the same distinctive border as the present piece, implying the two were part of the same set. 



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. 18. [exhibition catalog].

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