The subject, a pair of prancing qilins, makes the present lot a rare form of the classic 14th century Yuan yuhuchunping. While other features of this pear-shaped vase conform to the prevailing style - the horizontal bands of upright plaintain leaves on the neck, the lotus panels around the shoulder and base, and the stylized floral patterns in the narrow divider bands - the main theme of the decoration is rare and depicted on only a few other porcelain examples of this period.
A similar qilin with scaly body and head turned back is painted on the neck of a large porcelain jar dated to the Yuan in the collection of the British Museum Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, Tokyo, 1981, vol. 5, pl. 26. For another related depiction of a prancing qilin with similar scales on a mid-14th century plate in the Rijksmuseum, see C. Jrg, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: The Ming and Qing Dynasties, London, 1997, Catalogue, pp. 30-31, no. 1.
A mythical animal, the qilin typically has a horned goat's head, a dragon's scales, a deer's body, and an ox's feet and tail, although it is sometimes depicted as leonine. It is a gentle, benevolent creature that treads so lightly and carefully that it damages no living thing and leaves no footprints. Symbolizing amongst other virtues, prosperity and wise administration, the qilin only appears during the reign of a noble and honorable ruler.