Tea bowl and saucer

DATE: 1736-1795 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain, with painted decoration

This tea bowl and saucer were produced during a prosperous and innovative time for Chinese ceramic production, driven by the prolific export of ceramics to the West. The decoration depicts a hen and cockerel mating, a motif used on Chinese porcelain due to its symbolic nature. In Chinese culture, the rooster is a symbol of prosperity due to their ability for quick reproduction and, as a result, used throughout the Chinese marriage ceremony, leading the couple into a happy future. A matched rooster and hen in turn symbolise a pair of Mandarin ducks which mean a blissful pairing of love. In other surviving examples where this motif appears, the hen and rooster are overlooked by a female figure or courting couple, an extension of its romantic symbolism.