Bowl with duck pond design and inscription

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1821-1850
Porcelain with cobalt pigment under clear glaze, enamels over glaze
Jingdezhen ware
H x W x D: 7.6 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm (3 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in)
China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen
Credit Line
Gift of Ruth Meyer Epstein
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel


Buddhism, China, cobalt pigment, dragon, duck, enamel, inscription, Jingdezhen ware, lotus, porcelain, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), WWII-era provenance

To 1970
Eugene Meyer (1875-1959) and Agnes E. Meyer (1887-1970), Washington, DC, and Mt. Kisco, NY [1]

To 1992
Ruth Meyer Epstein (1921-2007), Scarsdale, NY, given by her parents, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer [2]

From 1992
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Ruth Meyer Epstein in 1992 [3]


[1] According to information included in “Page Report,” dated December 1, 1993, in object file.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See Ruth M. Epstein’s Deed of Gift, dated June 9, 1992, in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer (1875-1959) and (1887-1970)
Mrs. Ruth Meyer Epstein


In the fifteenth century the Chinese imperial kilns produced porcelain bowls decorated with ducks and inscribed in Tibetan.  These inscriptions offered a promise of good fortune for Buddhist believers. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the imperial kilns resumed making bowls with this pattern, but the inscription had become corrupted and was no longer written in Tibetan script.  As seen on this nineteenth-century bowl, the writing reproduces the Sanskrit alphabet, but with several mistakes.  Some letters are invented forms that appear to be a misunderstanding of a special form of Tibetan ritual script.  Most members of the Chinese court could not read Tibetan or Sanskrit, but they nevertheless assumed the writing to be an effective Buddhist invocation.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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