Lianzi wan, or lotus bowls, with gently curved sides and straight rims, decorated on the exterior with a single band of long underglaze blue petals were popular with the court in the Xuande reign. The decoration on these bowls is particularly interesting for the contrast between the delicately painted floral scrolls on the interior and the boldly painted petals on the exterior. The floral scroll on the interior is also interesting since it depicts alternating chrysanthemum and camellia flowers. These provide two of the flowers of the four seasons - the chrysanthemum representing autumn and the camellia representing winter. Chrysanthemums, which bloom when many other flowers are destroyed by the cold of autumn, has a very long history of cultivation in China and are symbols of longevity. Camillias, which bloom around the time of Chinese New Year and are often associated with the celebration of that festival, are regarded as auspicious providers of joy and protection. When combined with the two other flowers of the four seasons - peony and lotus - camellia and chrysanthemum provide a rebus for 'May you enjoy wealth and honor throughout the year'. For further information on the significance of these flowers see T.T. Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006.
This bowl bears a six-character reign mark, which is relatively rare since the majority of extant examples of this type of bowl lack marks. However, a small number of similar bowls with marks are known. A Xuande-marked bowl of the same size and decoration preserved in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, pp. 364-4, no. 155. Another example is illustrated in Blue and White Porcelains from the Collection of Mrs. Alfred Clark, Spink & Son, London, 1974, no. 12, while a third is illustrated by A. Joseph in Ming Porcelains, London, 1971, no. 30.
Bowls of similar shape and decoration, but without reign marks, include an example illustrated in Special Exhibition of Early Ming Porcelains, National Palace Museum, Taiwan, 1982, no. 23, and a bowl illustrated in Porcelains from the Tianjin Municipal Museum, 1993, pls. 76 and 77. Bowls of this type without reign marks are also preserved in the collection of the Ardebil Shrine, and illustrated by J. A. Pope, Chinese porcelain from the Ardebil Shrine, London, 1956, pl. 47 - top right - where two other examples are noted.
Bowls of this type are also related to vessels of similar size and shape with a double row of bold petals on the exterior and on the interior a lotus scroll surrounding a peach roundel, such as the example in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 34 - Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, pp. 162-3, no. 154. Bowls like the current example are also related to smaller vessels with a single row of bold petals on the exterior, but with concentric arabesque bands on the interior, as exemplified by a small bowl in the National Palace Museum illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, op. cit., pp. 376-7, no. 161.