Chinese Porcelain Dragon Bowl

Photo of a blue Chinese porcelain bowl with white slip decoration

Project details

This is one of two Chinese porcelain bowls decorated with two dragons chasing the flaming pearl in Jamestown Rediscovery’s archaeological collections.  Fifty-three sherds of the bowls were recovered by archaeologists from contexts in the Confederate fort containing disturbed James Fort artifacts. In Chinese mythology, dragons were divine creatures that symbolized strength and good fortune; the flaming pearl represented wisdom.

Made during the reign of Emperor Wanli, both bowls were decorated over a glazed cobalt blue ground with a trailed, white slip, which was incised to depict dragon scales and eyes. A second kiln firing insured the permanence of the decoration. The exterior base of the illustrated bowl bears an underglaze cobalt blue Chinese mark that translates: “Exquisite Vessel Made for Jade Hall.” The mark was most likely made by an illiterate painter working in or near Zhangzhou in the Fujian province.  Showing no signs of use or wear, this object likely served as a status symbol in the home of an early colonist.