Compare with similar examples in well-known collections including one from the Robert Chang collection sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2006, lot 1313; an example illustrated in Exhibition of Blue and White Wares, Shanghai Museum, Catalogue, no. 24; a dish formerly in the Gustav VI Adolf Collection, and now in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, Kodansha series, vol. 9, Tokyo, 1976, pl. 216; an example in the Percival David Foundation, London, illustrated in op. cit., Kodansha series, vol. 6, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 74; one from the T. Y. Chao and R. E. R. Luff collections exhibited at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Ming and Ching Porcelain in the Collection of the T. Y. Chao Family Foundation, illustrated in the Catalogue, 1978, no. 3; another illustrated in Selected Masterpieces from the Manno Collection, Japan, 1988, pl. 109; and several examples in Middle Eastern collections including one illustrated by T. Misugi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East, Topkapi and Ardebil, vol. 3, Hong Kong, 1981, pl. A.41; another from the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul, illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. 2, London, 1986, no. 606; and five examples in the Ardebil Shrine collection, one of which is illustrated by John Alexander Pope, Chinese Ceramics from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, 1956, pl. 38 29.52.
The present dish was given to Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911) by the Empress Dowager Cixi on the occasion of his retirement in 1908. Sir Robert first entered British consular service in China in 1854 and worked in Hong Kong, Ningpo and Canton. Upon graduating from Queen's University, Belfast in 1853, Hart received from his college a nomination as student interpreter in Hong Kong. After a short time at the Ningpo vice-consulate, he was appointed as customs inspector at Canton in 1859. He became fluent in Mandarin and a member of the elite social circles of Manchu princes and prominent government ministers.
In 1863, the Dowager Empress Cixi appointed Sir Robert as the Inspector General of the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs at the Chinese Treaty Ports, the main source of Chinese government revenue. Sir Robert served with great accomplishment and dedication in this position for forty-five years until his retirement in 1907. Hart was important in ensuring the interests of European investors in Chinese securities, and helped to place Chinese finance on a solid footing. Many port and navigational facilities improved under his advice. By 1896 Hart's department was managing the first modernized national postal service in China. On March 4, 1889, the Dowager Empress elevated Sir Robert to "The Ancestral Rank of the First Class of the First order for Three Generations". He became the only foreigner in history to receive this honour.
Other honorific titles bestowed upon Hart by the Chinese government included the Red Button, or button of the highest rank, a Peacock's Feather, the order of the Double Dragon, and the title of Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent. Sir Robert also received a baronetcy from Britain in 1893 and his name is remembered in Beijing through a street name in the Legation quarter.