The sides are decorated with a continuous scene of a procession of scholars crossing a bridge to present themselves at the Guanhan Palace of Chang E, the moon goddess, all between incised borders. The cover is decorated with a scene of scholars.
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127⁄8 in. (32.7 cm.) high
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S. Little, Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period: 1620-1683, New York, 1983, pp. 58-59, no. 17.
J.B. Curtis, Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century, Landscapes, Scholar’s Motifs and Narratives, New York, 1995, pp. 112-113, no. 42.
New York, China House Gallery, China Institute in America, Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period: 1620-1683, 1983-1984.
New York, China Institute Gallery, China Institute in America, Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century, Landscapes, Scholar’s Motifs and Narratives, 22 April – 5 August 1995, no. 42.
There are many versions of the story of how Chang-E, the moon goddess, came to live on the moon, but all the stories involve her husband, the archer Yi, who saved the earth by shooting down the additional suns that were burning it up, and from whom some stories say she stole the elixir of immortality. She was believed to live on the moon with a white hare, which pounded the elixir of immortality with a pestle and mortar, and with the woodcutter Wu Gang, who was condemned to stay on the moon until he could chop down a magically regenerating osmanthus tree. The small hare is seen on the present jar to the right of the head of the attendant to the furthest right.
The specific scene depicted on the jar originates from a dream of the Tang-dynasty Emperor Xuanzong, who reigned from AD 713 to 756. In his dream, Emperor Xuanzong followed the sound of the flute from the Moon Palace, and wandered over a bridge. He then encountered Chang-E, whom he thought was the most beautiful lady, dressed in an exquisite flowing robe. When he woke up from the dream, he composed a song based on the melody of the flute he had heard, which he titled Ni Shang Yu Yi Qu (The Song of Feather-Decorated Robe). A fan painting by the Southern-Song painter, Zhou Chen, depicting the same scene and with a similar composition, is now in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing. (https://www.dpm.org.cn/collection/paint/234090.html)
In the exhibition catalogue from the China Institute exhibition cited above, it is noted that this jar is one of the largest known examples of this shape of covered jar (p. 58). The author also notes that Chang-E is shown holding a branch of the cassia tree (gui), which “blooms in autumn at the time when the official civil service examinations were held and is consequently a symbol of success.”