Kangxi Brushpot

Started by hn2503, Apr 03, 2022, 07:19:00

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Hi Peter and everyone,

I came across a Brush pot (Bitong) and I was told that it was made during the Kangxi era.

It has a 4-character mark at the bottom, which I do not understand. Most of the area of the bottom is un-glazed, except the small circle at the centre showing the mark. I notice the bottom surface is a bit like condensed sand, i.e. not (pure) white as normally expected from a good piece. Is it normal from this period to have this kind of unglazed bottom?

The quality of the glaze and porcelain is not good, i.e. there are many glaze contractions, and i understand that many porcelain items of the 18th century do not show glaze contractions.

If you could have comments on whether this is a fake Kangxi pot or not, that will be really helpful, i.e. does the glaze looks okay, how about the painting style and colour of the blue?



Some more images


Your observations are quite right.

First the mark 文章山斗 is indeed a Kangxi mark. Not sure if it refers to the 赤壁 (red cliff) which is frequently a subject of decoration on Chinese porcelain.
And yes, the bottom is a 'yubi' (jade disc) shape, which is normal on Kangxi brush pots.
The rocks show a white interior, which is also common on Kangxi porcelain.
The leafless branches would also correspond to this period, but why the tree beside that is upward down...I think most trees wouldn't grow with the tree trunk downward. I do not know if there are hanging rocks in that place.
The other thing that is odd is the water below the boat, painted in a way which is unknown to me. The normal way of water in the Kangxi reign would have been thin parallel, horizontal lines.

I agree that the glaze is of inferior quality. This is not normal even in a private kiln. Looks as if a lot of possibly combustible material may have adhered to the glaze, which then caused this pitting.
The bottom look old and natural.
So that is about all I can tell, the quality of the glaze and the water is not quite normal for Kangxi. Not sure whether the spoiled glaze was an accident or not.
It is just a pity that with so much nice handwriting on it the glaze is in such a condition.


Many thanks Peter for the message and your comments.

A 'yubi' (jade disc) shape is new to me, but indeed the bottom does look very much like a jade disc from images I can see in Google.

your interpretation of the mark is quite right, i.e. cliff and/or mountain. I just managed to look up this mark on Google, and it means "Wen Zhang Shan Dou" or "Scholarship as high as the mountains and the Great Bear". In China, Great Bear seems to be the mythological home of god of literature if I recall accurately from a conversation/reading in the distant past.


"why the tree beside that is upward down...I think most trees wouldn't grow with the tree trunk downward. I do not know if there are hanging rocks in that place." I agree with the observation as well. Even if the tree grows from hanging rock, some of the tree features still have to point upward.



Well, I have some reservations about that. The explanations of the whole are complicated and various. The mark content itself is now a sort of saying, but 'wenzhang' alone just means "writing" (e.g. a piece of writing).  It is possible that 'shandou' points directly to the "red cliff", or the whole indicates the characters written on the rock, in that place. '山斗' itself literally could also mean fighting or struggle at a mountain...
Most decorations showing people in a boat visiting a cliff are relating to that place. It was the location of a decisive battle fought in the 'end of Han dynasty - three kingdoms' period.

BTW, if you do an image search for "赤壁 山斗" it may bring up a number of brush pots with decorations resembling yours.


Hi Peter,

In deed, I should have looked up the mark "赤壁 山斗" in Google, and it is quite popular that many (brush) pots have this at the bottom. The drawings of those also have hanging rocks, people on boat etc, but the quality of both painting and porcelain are better than the one i posted photos here.

One nice example can be seen here (the image is just over 400KB): www.antiquekeeper.ca/?product=%E6%B8%85-%E5%BA%B7%E7%86%99%E5%90%8E%E8%B5%A4%E5%A3%81%E8%B5%8B%E7%AC%94%E7%AD%92