This elegant form is known as yaoling zun which literally translates as a 'vase in the shape of a handbell'. Its unusual shape originally derived from the classic paper-beater vases, zhichui ping of the Song period. The form is also reminiscent of the Lamaist white pagoda popular in Mongolia and Tibet, and the rosette medallion motif is also suggestive of Tibetan Buddhism.
Produced only in the Kangxi period, these vases with tall attenuated necks were decorated entirely in underglaze-blue, as on the present lot, or in a subtle combination of underglaze-blue and copper-red. A Kangxi-marked mallet vase in blue and white is illustrated in Chinese Porcelain, The S. C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, pl. 49, where it is noted, p. 29, that this vase is one of the new Qing designs found on imperial Kangxi wares, inspired by the decoration of ancient bronzes. However, it departs from the traditions of Ming blue and white, as here, the use of white space is more dramatic than the less austere designs of the Ming.
Other similar blue and white vases include one illustrated by S. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975, fig. 213, together with the same vase decorated in underglaze-red, fig. 212; and another by H. Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pl. 74 (left).
Vases of this shape combining underglaze-blue and red are published. Compare to three almost identical examples, the first illustrated by J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, 1999, no. 147; the second from the Sir Harry and Lady Garner collection, included in the exhibition of Blue-Decorated Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1949, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 282; and the last illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. 1, pl. 1042. One of these vases from the J M Hu Family Collection, was also sold in these Rooms, 31 October 2000, lot 888.