Chinese blue and white barber's bowl, late 18th century, with a brown rim, decorated with a bird in flight above three large peony blooms with curling leaves, seed-pod heads and chamomile, the inner rim with a ruyi-head and lotus flower band, the wide rim with four ogee-shaped cartouches containing flowering peony and grasses, interspersed by four small roundels containing mythical beasts, against a diaper ground, the reverse with four further floral sprays
Diameter: 34 cm. (13 3/5in.)
Known as the ‘king of the flowers’ (huawang), peony is a highly symbolic flower in China. The flowers, roots and seeds have been used in traditional medicine for millennia, but owing to Empress Wu’s appreciation for the flower it became associated with beauty and wealth from the Tang Dynasty onwards. Peonies continued to be associated with royalty and high status throughout the Song, Yuan and Ming, and were frequently grown in imperial gardens as a symbol of riches and honour.