This page is only one of many thousands of Help and Information Pages, offering specialized knowledge on Chinese and Japanese Porcelain, including a Glossary, Q&A, Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Marks, Chinese Porcelain Exhibition and Excavation reports etc. For personal help and far more information, join our Discussion Board or use 'Ask a Question' for quick email consultations. For full text and better navigation, use a full-screen device rather than a mobile phone, that offers only limited content.

Hawthorne jar with a six character Kangxi mark in a double circle

I was at a show last night and saw a "Kangxi" Hawthorne jar. It is c.9"tall.

The lid is obviously a replacement but the jar itself is closer to being right than most.

The good things about it are: It has a clear thin glaze with good blue and fine artwork. The foot rim is the right shape. The mouth is the right shape.

The odd things are: It has a six character Kangxi mark in a double circle. The paste is a bit rougher than I would want to feel though not as coarse as most of the 19th.C. ones. There is an odd incised spiral inside the jar from a tool that was used to raise the jar on the wheel.

The thing that bothers me most is the mark on this pattern. I went through my books and catalogues and saw lots of pieces in this pattern but none has the Kangxi mark.

This isn't an Imperial pattern is it? Could this possibly be right?

Could be right, even if marked Kangxi Ginger jars is almost unheard of

It could be right, even if marked Kangxi Ginger jars is almost unheard of before. I would really need a picture of the mark, the shape of the jar and a close-up of how the blue washes have soaked into the porcelain paste, before I could form any opinion, really.

In her book "A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics" Suzanne G Valenstein has published a beautiful Kangxi jar with a Hawthorne pattern as from the Bejamin Altman bequest (Fig. 209, p.219) but if this has a mark the text does not say so. In other books I remember marks being mentioned but there were no pictures attached to the text so I don't know if the piece mentioned was right.

What bothers me most in your description is the spiral inside the jar from a tool, which I definitely feel should not be there. This is because of the little understood production technology of antique Chinese porcelain.

Most people believe that Chinese porcelain is thrown into their final shape, as with pottery. I thought so too, before I actually went to Jingdezhen and saw how it really was made.

Chinese porcelain are actually only thrown into a preliminary general shape.

It is then left to dry. Then, after a rough finishing, it is luted together from several horizontal segments - at least two - giving most jars a joint which should be clearly visibly about halfway up on the inside wall.

This joint was most often polished off, if the opening was big enough to let in a hand, but it should still be there, visibly as a discoloring, a yellow crack or some unevenness under the glaze. This could most often be seen both on the inside as well as the outside wall as some undulating.

After luting, polishing and a new drying period, the porcelain pieces were shaved or pared down to its final shape with a knife, in a way, which should leave almost NO marks.

So, there is something very strange with this spiral - since its presence is not coherent with antique Chinese porcelain manufacturing technique.

If there are any tool marks at all present on antique Chinese porcelain, they should be there because the potters bone, horn or bamboo tool temporary was unsharp. It is also worth remembering that steel tools and engine powered potterís wheels - which could keep an even rotating speed - does not seems to have been in use before pretty recently.

Finally I can only say that exceptions occur and there is not one day without I see something I have never seen before - but before you accept any new "small details" as ok, I must suggest that the overall impression do must be very convincing.

Thank you for your interest.

Best regards,
Jan-Erik Nilsson

Comment added

Dear Jan-Erik Nilsson,

Thank you for your help. I went back today to the show and brought a jar that I know is Kangxi. It is about the same size and is the same form although the decoration is different. I could tell pretty quickly that the jar for sale wasn't Kangxi.

The paste wasn't white enough. It had a buff-pink color. The exposed paste was too buff in color and wasn't fine enough. The footrim wasn't flat enough and the mouth wasn't vertical enough. The real give away was that the mark was missing a brushstroke at the bottom of the Xi in Kangxi.

It is however the very best copy I've ever seen. The glaze is thin and the blue is wonderful with no hollow lines and almost no bubbles in the glaze. It was made in two parts and joined in the middle but that spiral on the inside is strange.

I think the piece has some age because it came out of an early estate (so they said). It probably is late 19th.-early 20th.C. but I've never seen chinese porcelains of that period get the blue and the glaze so right. I had intended to bring my camera to get shots but I forgot.