The Philosophy Behind a Colourful ‘Korean Style’ Dish

When I first look at the above dish, it looks ‘Korean style’ to me with its motif echoing the flag of South Korea. It is actually a Chinese ‘Doucai’ dish of Yongzheng period in Qing dynasty, decorated with eight trigrams and a Taiji symbol. The dish will be sold at an evening sale at China Guardian in Beijing, with an estimate of US$56,000-86,000.

Docai, also known as contrasting colours, is a technique in painted Chinese porcelain, starting in the 15th century during the Ming dynasty. Parts of the design are painted in underglaze blue while the rest of it is added in overglaze enamels of different colours. The finest pieces of 'Doucai' were made in the Chenghua period of Ming dynasty and later in Yonzheng period of Qing dynasty.

The dish has shallow rounded sides rising from a short tapering foot to a slightly everted rim. The interior is painted with a red and blue Taiji symbol at the centre of a lotus surrounded by patterns of eight trigrams in red, blue and green, together with an outer circle of blue and white breaking waves. The base is inscribed with mark and period of Yongzheng, Qing dynasty.

The Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing dynasty was a believer in Taoism, in which Taiji is an important philosophy. Taiji, a concept comes from I Ching (the book of changes), is a Chinese cosmological term for the “Supreme Ultimate” state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potential. It creates Yin and Yang (two polarities) and these two forces generate the four symbols. The four symbols thus generate the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams are believed to determine good fortune and misfortune.

As heavily influenced by Chinese culture, ancient Korea adopted new philosophies from China. The philosophy of I Chang was introduced to Korea and inspired the design of South Korea flag - the circle in the middle represents Yin and Yang and the trigrams together signify harmony and peace.


 ‘Doucai’ Eight Trigrams Taiji Symbol Dish. Yongzheng Period, Qing Dynasty.

Auction house: China Guardian (Beijing)
Sale:  Porcelains from Ming Dynasty to the Republic Period
No. of lots: 100
2017/8/30 - 31|9:30am - 9pm
2017/9/1|9:30am - 6pm
Auction: 2017/9/2|8pm
Lot no.: 3902
Diameter: 19.9cm
Estimate: RMB 370,000 - 570,000 (US$56,000-86,000)