This design of the three fish in underglaze-red originated in the Xuande period and is found mainly on stemcups, and occasionally on conical bowls. See the Xuande-marked stemcup illustrated in the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, no. 81. Wares with this type of decoration continue to be found throughout the 15th century, and well into the 16th century, as evidenced by a conical bowl with the same decoration, bearing a Wanli reign mark, in the collection of the National Palace Museum, illustrated in Underglaze Red Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1963, pp. 96-7, pl. 1. However, it is interesting to note that the inclusion of copper-red fish on a dish appears to be quite rare, as stem bowls and deep, conical bowls appear to be the standard shape for vessels with this decoration.
So beloved was this pattern that it was emulated throughout the Qing dynasty. The Qing emperors were devout antiquarians, and commissioned numerous vessels to be made in imitation of the wares of past eras. A pair of Yongzheng dishes with this pattern was included in the Hong Kong O. C. S., Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Related Underglaze Red, Hong Kong, 1975, no. 129. See, also, the Yongzheng-marked conical bowl with the same decoration, sold in these rooms, 19 March 2008, lot 632.