Antique Bonsai Pots from Museum Collections: 1 – Nanjing Museum

I was organizing digital photos in my backup drive, and found a number of bonsai penjing pot photos I took during my travels. I want to share them with you, starting with photos I took at the Nanjing Museum, China, in 2004. In most art museums, one seldom see bonsai pot on display, perhaps one or two in the Asian Art or Ceramic section.  The unusual high number of pots displayed in the Nanjing Museum might be due to a temporary special exhibition rather than permanent displays. Honestly, I do not remember. They are all behind glass, and the photos are, therefore, not very sharp and have reflections or glares.

17th – Early 18th Century Kangxi Period Pots:

The Kangxi period pots are gorgeous and highly artistic.  The clay, glaze and craftsmanship were of superb qualities. The Kangxi period was at the golden age of the Qing dynasty.


Qing dynasty Kangxi (1662-1722) blue and white round pot.


Qing dynasty Kangxi (1662-1722) blue and white rectangular pot with the mythical Eight Immortals. H: 18 cm, W: 33 cm, D: 22cm.


Qing dynasty Kangxi blue and white hexagonal pot.

Peter Krebs, a friend and a famous German bonsai potter, had written an excellent article telling stories of the Eight Immortals depicted on blue and white pots in his collection. To find out about the Eight Immortals, click on his bonsaipots site:

The Kangxi blue and white porcelains are characterized by deep cobalt-based underglaze blue in shades of varying gradations. Another unique feature is the sun in Kangxi blue and white porcelains was drawn as a small, unfilled circle; you can find it near the top of the lip in the square pot, and on the left and right panels of the hexagonal pot.  But in the colorful famille verte porcelains, the sun was filled in red.


Qing dynasty Kangxi famille verte (wucai) square pot with two immortals. H: 32cm W at the top: 58.5 cm W at the feet: 41 cm.


Kangxi famille verte round pot on bean-green color glaze as background. H: 32.9 cm. Top diam. 60.9 cm, base diam. 39 cm.


Another Kangxi Wucai (five color glaze, a transition from famille verte to famille rose glaze) pot with Eight Riders Bringing Treasures. Note the interesting shape of the pot.

Late 19th Century Pots:

Late 19th century saw the end of the Qing dynasty with a lot of turmoils. Although these pots were made for the imperial households, they were no where close to those made during the 17th-18th centuries, the  peak periods of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns.


Late 19th century famille rose (fencai) square pot made for Empress Dawager Cixi’s use, the red mark reads “Dayazhai”, a palace building where she lived. The design is a peony which symbolizes prospertiy.


Late 19th century famille rose pot with blue background,  Express Cixi’s “Dayazhai” mark,


Late 19th century Empress Cixi Dayazhai famille rose bulb pot in the shape of a silver ingot used as hard currency in China.

In 2013, my wife and I joined a tour to the SIlk Route in Western China.  We spent 10 days in Beijing after the tour to explore the city on our own, unhurried by the tour guide. The Beijing City Museum had a special exhibit on Late Qing dynasty imperial porcelains. There were many bonsai penjing and bulb pots. This is an excellent museum, we spent a whole day there. I will post those pots later.


After posting this blog I checked the Nanjing Museum’s website, four of the Kangxi pots were featured in their Ming and Qing porcelain collections. So they might be still on displays. I added the pot dimensions given in their site. They are very large pots.


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