A reign mark records the name of the Chinese dynasty and the reign of the emperor during which the piece was made. It comprises four or six Chinese characters, and is usually found on the base of a work of art commissioned for the Emperor or his imperial household. Six-character Kangxi reign mark in underglaze blue How do you read a reign mark? Reign marks are most commonly written in vertical columns and are read from top to bottom, and from right to left. It is thought that this system of reading and writing grew from ancient Chinese traditions of writing on vertical strips of bamboo or bone.
Collecting Guide: 10 things you need to know about Chinese ceramics
Pottery Identification Marks
We look to investigate some of the mysteries of the East. We have ongoing discussions going on about such diverse subjects as the red Qianlong Qing red seal marks of China, Japanese tea sets with the ladies head hidden in the base of the cups, Famille Rose porcelains from China and Japanese dragon tea ware, and lots more. If you need a bit of personal help in your investigations, I'm here to help! Back to the research. Below is a quick glimpse at some of the things people have brought up in this interesting China Chat section Let's first take a look at the red seal marks you might run across.
China Nowhere in the world has pottery assumed such importance as in China, and the influence of Chinese porcelain on later European pottery has been profound. It is difficult to give much practical assistance on the question of Chinese marks. Most of the Chinese marks give the name of the dynasty and that of the emperor; however, many of them have been used so inconsequentially that, unless the period can also be assigned with reasonable certainty by other means, it is better to disregard them. The dating of Chinese pottery is further complicated by the fact that there were traditional and persisting types that overlapped; quite often, therefore, dynastic labels cannot be regarded as anything more than an indication of the affinities of the particular object under discussion. Longevity is symbolized by such things as the stork, the pine, and the tortoise, the lingzhi fungus, and the bamboo, all reputed to enjoy long life.
Apart from imperial reign periods, specific date marks are almost of an unlimited nature ranging from just the year to a combination of reign period, year and precise day. Although they are not found frequently on Chinese ceramics their potential diversity is considerable. My dating table above will, with a little familiarity, enable the user to translate most types of date mark.