The scene on this vase, from, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, depicts Consort Dong being led away by Cao Cao’s men to her execution. Consort Dong was the daughter of Dong Cheng – the loyal supporter of Emperor Xian, who is shown on the brush pot, lot 3533 in this catalogue. Her father’s conspiracy against the warlord Cao Cao was discovered in AD 200 and he, along with his co-conspirators Zhong Ji and Wang Fu, were condemned to death, together with their families. In spite of the fact that Consort Dong was an imperial consort, who was expecting the emperor’s child, and despite Emperor Xian’s strenuous efforts to intercede to save her, Cao Cao nevertheless ordered her execution.
For examples of similar size and registers of decoration, with lower narrative scenes, in the British Museum, London and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, see Jessica Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p. 386, no. 12:83, and Christiaan J.A. Jörg, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: The Ming and Qing Dynasties, London, 1997, p. 76, no. 62, respectively.