Dish in the form of a plum blossom with figure watching water fowl

Historical period(s)
Early Ming dynasty, late 14th century
Carved red lacquer on wood core
H x W x D: 2.5 x 16.8 x 17.1 cm (1 x 6 5/8 x 6 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Lacquer, Vessel


bird watching, China, flower, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), pavilion, plum blossom, Waterfowl

?-to 1972
Sammy Yu Kuan Lee, President of Oriental House, Ltd., Tokyo, and Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Company, Ltd., Hong Kong [1]

Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York, NY, purchased from Sammy Yu Kuan Lee, President of Oriental House, Ltd., Tokyo, and Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Company, Ltd., Hong Kong [2]

Unidentified owner, method of transfer unknown [3]

Estate of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, New York, NY [4]

Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, New York, NY, transferred from the Estate of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler [5]

From 1997
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation


[1] See paper file from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, copy in object file.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The object was on loan to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery between 1987 and 1997.

[4] See note 1. See curatorial remark 1.

[5] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Company, Ltd.
Oriental House LTD
Sammy Yu Kuan Lee
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
Arthur M. Sackler Foundation founded 1965


Gardens provided a source for creative inspiration for Chinese poets, calligraphers, and painters, who were frequently portrayed in both natural and cultivated settings. On this finely carved lacquer dish, a seated figure is shown intently gazing at the moving waterfowl and the scenery beyond. While the composition appears to be a generic scene of quiet repose it may have been inspired by the story of the fourth-century calligrapher Wang Xizhi (circa 307-365), who claimed that he learned principles of brush movement by studying the natural mannerisms of swimming geese. The dish, an early example of pictorial lacquers, is also notable for its unusual shape of a five-petal plum blossom. It is framed with a floral border that includes plum, peony, hibiscus, chrysanthemum, and camellia. This type of imagery proved popular on early Ming lacquer dishes and boxes, which were, perhaps, given as imperial gifts to respected members of the scholarly civil service.

Published References
  • Lee Yu-kuan. Oriental Lacquer Art., 1st ed. New York. cat. 101, p. 167.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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