This well potted and skillfully decorated vase bears a rare, but evocative inscription. The inscription reads: Shigan Caotang, which may be translated as 'Thatched cottage by the brook'. Not surprisingly, in view of the fineness of this vase, the inscription should not be taken literally, but refers to the shigan, which is one of the songs in the Shijing, Xiaoya (the Lesser Odes chapter of the Book of Songs). The first two lines of the song have been translated as reading:
'The brook flows
The southern mountains deep.'
The song is about the building of houses and the joys of home. See Ming Wilson, Rare Marks on Chinese Ceramics, London, 1998, p. 116. The inference to be drawn from the inscription is not that the owner of the vase lives in a humble thatched cottage, but that he has a happy home.
A copper-red Qianlong flask in the Victoria and Albert Museum bears this inscription written in underglaze blue, see ibid., pp. 116-7, no. 48. A Qianlong double-gourd vase with Ge-type glaze, also bearing this underglaze blue mark, is discussed by Geng Baochang in Mingqing Ciqi Jianding, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 383. A large Qianlong doucai 'peach' dish from the collection of Robert Chang, which also bears this mark, was sold in these rooms, 20 September 2001, lot 391.