After the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, the Chinese porcelain industry went into decline. European traders turned to the potters of Arita in Japan for the export wares that they required. The decorative palette that emerged from Japanese craftsmen was characterised by underglaze cobalt blue, overglaze iron red and gilding: a style known today as ‘Imari’. This term derives from the name of a port on the North-West coast of Japan, from where the porcelain was shipped to Nagasaki and subsequently sold to Chinese and Dutch merchants. From around 1680, Imari wares were copied by Chinese potters in Jingdezhen. This Imari-style Chinese teapot is a good example of Chinese imitation of, and competition with, Japanese porcelain.
This teapot is decorated with typical features of Chinese Imari-style porcelain, with painted prunus and chrysanthemum blossoms, and a geometric design in cobalt blue known as the ‘cloud and thunder’ pattern (yunwen leiwen). Found on bronze vessels from Zhou dynasty China (1046 – 771 BC), the pattern symbolised life-giving rain and the abundance it brought to farming communities.