Previously sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 13 November 1990, lot 336.
The central motif on the dish depicts a mythical creature, a qilin, galloping over waves with flames streaming from its fore and hind legs, and mountains rising from the waves in the background. The qilin is a very auspicious animal as it is said to live for a thousand years and to be the noblest of all animals and therefore to represent perfect goodness. It was believed to tread so lightly and carefully that it left no footprints and it damaged no living things with its hooves. The appearance of a qilin was supposed to be the sign of a virtuous ruler and the book on the back of the qilin symbolises knowledge and accomplishment. The combined images allude to a virtuous and learned emperor.
A similar dish also with gilded mouth rim is in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 206, no. 35. Dishes of this same pattern but without the gilding are published, cf. an example from the Chang Foundation, illustrated by J. Spencer, Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, 1990, no. 140; and another from the Edward T. Chow Collection, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19 May 1981, lot 560.