The inscription on the base of these pieces, Caihua Tang zhi, may be translated as reading 'Made for the Hall of Many Coloured Flowers'. This Hall appears to have been established in the Forbidden City in Beijing during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, and continued to be used by a number of his successors. Porcelain with various types of decoration are known bearing this hall mark, including a Qianlong doucai dish with lamaist design and the mark in overglaze iron red illustrated by M. Wilson in Rare Marks on Chinese Ceramics, Percival David Foundation/Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1998, pp. 34-5, no. 7 and a Qianlong vessel with the mark in underglaze cobalt blue illustrated by Lu Ming Hua in Wang Qingzheng (ed.), Underglaze Blue and Red, Hong Kong, 1987, p. 206, fig. 22. As Wilson points out, some scholars have suggested that the vessels bearing this mark are imperial wares from the Qianlong reign. See Xu Zhiheng, Yinliu Zhai Shuci, c. 1920, in Yang Jialuo (ed.), Taoci Pulu, Shijie Shuju, 1962, p. 231, while others ascribe a Jiaqing or Daoguang date to such pieces. See Geng Baochang, Mingqing Ciqi Jianding, Hong Kong, 1993, pp. 383-4; and Jiyuan Sou, Taoya, 1906, in Yang Jialuo (ed.), Taoci Pulu, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 50-1. Wilson points out, however, that it is likely that pieces were ordered for this hall at different times during its period of usage. We should therefore date the porcelain thus marked on the basis of its materials, form and decoration.
It is interesting to note the influence of the famous Chenghua doucai 'chicken' cups on the design of the current 18th century bowls. These bowls incorporate not only the chickens, but also rocks and versions of some of the plants that appear on the Chenghua vessels. The latter were, of course, very accurately copied in the Kangxi reign. See R. Scott, Imperial Taste - Chinese Ceramics from the Percival David Foundation, San Francisco, 1989, p. 73, no. 42 for the Chenghua version, and p. 75, no. 44 for the Kangxi version of this design. Doucai cups bearing a somewhat simplified version of this design were also made in the Qianlong reign as illustrated by R. Scott and S. Pierson, Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, Percival David Foundation, London, 1995, p. 52, no. 41. The current bowls, however, have taken the essential theme and adapted it to complement the famille rose or fencai palette in which they are decorated. The treatment of the subject, in terms of both the rocks and birds, is similar to that seen on so-called 'precocious boy' cups of the Qianlong period. For an example of the latter see R. Scott, For the Imperial Court - Qing Porcelains from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, Singapore/London, 1997, p. 98-9, no. 33.