Porcelain dish decorated in polychrome enamels with the lotus and Eight Buddhist symbols, Jingdezhen, China, Daoguang (1821-1850)
Porcelain saucer decorated in polychrome enamels and gilding with the Eight Buddhist emblems, separated by the shou (longevity) character, on the rim; outside are the seven paraphernalia of a chakravartin or universal sovereign.
During the Qing dynasty Buddhism played a central role in the religious and political activities of the court. Huge fortunes were invested to construct Buddhist temples and monasteries in Beijing and across the empire, and to perform religious rituals to facilitate state affairs or to pray for the individual salvation of aristocrats and emperors at court. Official porcelain vessels were specially commissioned for Buddhist altars. They were decorated with Buddhist symbols, and often enriched with Sanskrit, Tibetan and Mongolian inscriptions. The inscription on this saucer is written in Mongolian characters; as a daughter of the emperor Daoguang married the prince of Western Tumet, a principality of Southern Mongolia, this was probably part of a service made for her. The decoration is composed of a lotus flower and a vajra in the centre, and with the Eight Buddhist Emblems (ba ji xiang) on the rim; the wheel of Law (lun), the conch (luo), the emblem of victory (san), the parasol (gai), the lotus (hehua), the vase (guan), the twin fish (yu), and the endless knot (panchang), each associated to a blessing. Originally from India, they were introduced into China in the early 14th century by Tibetan Buddhism, and they soon became popular decorative and auspicious motif for porcelain, textiles and cloisonné objects.
Location: World Ceramics, room 145, case 22, shelf 2