The design on this dish is typically described as 'lotus bouquet' with the majority of the flowers, pod and leaves belonging to the auspicious lotus plant. However, the bouquet also includes additional auspicous plants, such as the arrow-shaped sagittaria sagittifolia, a symbol both of generosity and of food in time of shortage, and a stalk of millet, symbolising an abundance of grain. It is interesting to note that the present dish is the largest of its type.
Dishes with this 'lotus bouquet' design belong to an important group of early Ming blue and white wares together with 'grape' dishes, 'melon' dishes and 'dragon' dishes. See J.A. Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, D.C., 1956, p. 92, where he discusses the thirty-four 'bouquet' dishes of varying size and decorated with different borders in the Ardebil collection, showing the wide range of intensity of cobalt within the dishes and the diversity of decoration, albeit based on a master pattern. Some of these variations can be seen, ibid., pls. 30 and 31.
A slightly smaller dish of the same design, also from the J. M. Hu collection was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 November 2007, lot 1735; another smaller dish of this shape and design in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated by Wang Qingzheng, Underglaze Blue and Red, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 135. A dish of approximately the same size as the present example in the National Palace Museum is illustrated in Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Early Ming Porcelain, Taipei, 1982, no. 39. Compare also with a smaller (38.7 cm.) dish sold at Christie's New York, 19 March 2009, lot 711.