This huge and very rare vase is sturdily potted yet extremely finely painted in doucai technique. The decorative scheme is one more usually seen on Kangxi wares decorated in normal famille verte overglaze enamels. It is a very detailed scheme that is very time-consuming - and therefore expensive - to undertake in the doucai technique, in which all the outlines and details for the many small-scale design elements had to be painted in underglaze blue before the piece was glazed and fired. Only then could the enamels from the famille verte palette be applied within the underglaze blue outlines.
A vase in the Philadephia Museum of Art, which is quite large by normal standards but in fact smaller than the current vase, which combines a complex lattice ground in undeglaze blue, and overglaze enamel with reserved panels containing a variety of subjects, is illustrated by J. Ayers and M. Sato (eds.), Sekai toji zenshu - 15 - Qing, Tokyo, 1983, pp. 14-5, no. 4. However, the ground on the Philadelphia vase is by no means as complex as that on the current vase, and the panels on the Philadelphia vase are in simple overglaze enamels, rather than the doucai enamels of the current vessel.
The use of differently shaped panels reserved against a floral ground can be seen on a Kangxi famille verte vase in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, ibid., p. 169, no. 165. Like the current vase, the Cleveland vessel has both rectangular and leaf-shaped panels, as does a famille verte vase from the Salting Bequest in the Victoria and Albert Museum dated c. 1700-1722, illustrated by R. Kerr, Chinese Ceramics - Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911, London, 1986, p. 104, no. 82. Another, smaller, famille verte vase with rectangular, leaf-shaped and fan-shaped panels reserved against a floral ground is illustrated by Wang Qingzheng (ed.), Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, no. 130. The Shanghai vase, like the current vessel, includes auspicious creatures in the design.
A Kangxi doucai dish also in the Shanghai Museum, ibid., no. 158, also displays flowers and densely drawn small-scale leaves as a background to the main motifs. In contrast to the current vase, however, the dish does not have reserved panels as part of its decorative scheme. Nevertheless, it does incorporate flying phoenixes, and the doucai phoenixes on the dish share a number of similarities with those on the current vase. The swooping pose of the phoenix on the current vase can also be seen on a famille verte dish in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art illustrated in The Wonders of the Potter's Palette, Hong Kong, 1984, pp. 52-3, no. 19.
The phoenix and the qilin seen in one of the upper panels on the vase, and the dragon and tiger in another, are animals associated with the imperial family and with good fortune, and thus were favored motifs in the Kangxi reign. The leaping carp seen in one of the lower panels was also especially popular in the Kangxi period, and is often shown, as here, leaping to reach a flaming pearl. This motif, as well as another band containing the Hundred Treasures can be seen on a famille verte vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 38 - Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colors, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 138, no. 126. Depicting a carp leaping for the flaming pearl usually associated with the dragon, underlines the theme of the carp leaping the Dragon Gate and becoming a dragon - a symbol of the scholar who through success in the imperial examinations could become an official. The inclusion of some of the Eight Precious Things, discretely placed within the landscapes containing symbolic creatures reinforces the auspiciousness of the overall design.