They were made for the altar of a Daoist temple and their importance lies in the dated inscriptions on one side of their necks, above the bands of dragons. The long dedication is the earliest known on Chinese blue-and-white wares.
The dedication records that in 1351 a man named Zhang Wenjin from Yushan county presented these two vases and an incense burner (the whereabouts of which is unknown), to a Daoist temple in Xingyuan (modern day Wuyuan county). Yushan county is in northeast Jiangxi, which lies 120 km to the southeast of Jingdezhen, where these vases were made. This inscription demonstrates that blue-and-white porcelain production was already well-established at Jingdezhen by 1351. Originally the vases, modeled after bronzes, had porcelain rings attached through the elephant head shaped handles.
These vases were owned by Sir Percival David (1892–1964), who built the most important private collection of Chinese ceramics in the world.
R. Krahl and J. Harrison-Hall, Chinese Ceramics: Highlights of the Sir Percival David Collection (London, The British Museum Press, 2009).
J. Carswell, Blue & White: Chinese Porcelain Around the World (London, 2000).
M. Medley, "The Yuan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China," Ars Orientalis, 9 (1973), pp. 89–101.
R. Scott, "Sir Percival David’s Yuan Ceramics," Arts of Asia, 39/3 (2009).
J. Stuart, "The Sir Percival David Collection in the Sir Joseph Hotung Centre for Ceramic Studies, "’ Arts of Asia, 39/3 (2009).