Length: 5 1/2 inches, 14 cm
Height: 3 inches, 7.6 cm

Stoneware fish plaque

China, Song dynasty, 960 - 1279

A pottery plaque in the form of a carp, the naturalistically modelled fish well detailed with fins, dorsal ridge, a prominent tail and large, full eye, the mouth wide open.  The body is engraved with crosshatched lines, indicating the scales of the fish. The reverse is undecorated. The stoneware is uniformly buff coloured.

The precise function of this well-modelled stoneware plaque in the form of a fish is unclear.  According to Terese Bartholomew, the fish (yu) swims happily in the water, in harmony with its environment.1  It is rare to find a fish depicted by itself. More often, a fish forms part of the decoration, such as two fish painted on a Song dynasty ceramic headrest in the collection of Yamato Bunkakan.2

  1. Tse Bartholomew, T. Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2006, 9.5, p. 258
  2. Watson, W. The Arts of China 900 – 1620, Yale University Press, London, 1995, plate 57, p. 38