Daily Life in the Ming Court
This gold bowl was crafted using the repoussé technique. This technique was already used in pre-Qin times to make utensils, but its application to gold bowls was introduce from Sassanid Persia and Sogdiana during the Tang dynasty. This method takes advantage of the soft and flexible nature of gold to shape the metal by repeated hammer blows. If a mold is placed under the gold piece, a pattern can be formed on the gold.
During the Ming dynasty, golden pots and Jue (a three-legged goblet) were used by the nobility to drink wine. At that time, the general population had to content themselves with ceramic, silver, or tin tableware. Only the royal family and high-ranking officials could use gold. For officials, only those of the second rank or higher might use gold wine pots, while those of the 5th rank and above might use gold jue.
The body, lid, and other parts of this gold wine pot were crafted separately by repoussé and then welded together. The inscription on the outer side of the base tells us that this pot was made at the court workshop, the "Silver Bureau".
This gold bowl (more precisely, a Yu (盂)) was produced by repoussé and formed into a shape similar to the traditional earthen begging bowl of Buddhists. However, though a Buddhist, Prince Zhuang was not a monk. In addition, in form and size, the bowl is almost identical to the gold rinsing bowl found in Emperor Wanli's tomb in the Dingling Mausoleum. Therefore, archeologists believe it was used for rinsing the mouth.
This set consists of a gold-plated silver tray, gold jue, and gold-plated silver jue. The tray has two supports for the jue in the form of tree stumps. The three legs of the jue cups fit into grooves on the surface of these supports, holding them in place.
The outer surfaces of the supports have a pattern of mountain peaks, while the bottom of the tray is lined with an ocean pattern along with two flying dragons, winding around the bases of the supports. The tray rests on four subby cloud-shaped feet. The tray and supports combine sea, cliff, cloud, and dragon motifs, a suitable accompaniment to the silver and gold jue.
This set consists of a gold cover and blue-and-white dragon pattern porcelain bowl resting on a silver-gilt tray.
During the Ming dynasty, the blue-and-white porcelain kilns of the Jingdezhen Royal Factory were overseen by officials dispatched by the court. The exquisite quality of the porcelain and its rich colors make the works produced at this time and place stand out among Chinese blue-and-white porcelain ware. During the reigns of Yongle and Xuande, the high-iron, low-manganese's smalt brought back by Zhang He gave the blue-and white ware from this period their sapphire blue color, brown crystal spots, and unusual beauty.
An inscription on the inner surface of the gold cover tells us the piece was made in the second year of the Zhengtong emperor (1437) out of four liang and nine qian of gold. The inscription also tells us that the porcelain piece is a "zhong" (锺) or wine cup, not a "bowl on high foot" as previously thought.
In Chinese legend, Yaotai was the abode of the gods and site of their beautiful jade pavilions. Later, the term Yaotai was used to describe any ornate and magnificent building.
This porcelain wine cup depicts three groups of characters. In the first group, a lady sits sideways on a stone wall, while behind her a maid hold fans in both hands. A young woman stands opposite the lady, with a maid to the right. The second and third groups show a young woman and maid. Under the shadow of distant mountains and flowing clouds, they are intoxicated by the bright moonlight.
A blue-and-white cloud pattern sits at the center of the wine cup.
Ear spoons, toothpicks, and tweezers were necessary implements carried by any respectable man or woman. In Ming times, these items formed a fixed set, called "The Three Things" and were usually tied up in the corner of a Hanjin, a small towel tied around the neck.
A Xi (觽) was a tool used to untie knots, which also served as an ornamental accessory. This jade xi belonged to the princess. The simple carving shows a ram's head with coiled horns. The body of the ram is omitted, with the tail forms a curved cone used to untie knots.
This is a set of two pillow tops. Ancient pillows were generally rectangular and these items would have been installed on two ends. They served to fix the pillow in place and also as decoration.
Hubei Provincial Museum