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Fishbowl mystery

by Peter

Grateful for help in solving my fishbowl mystery. The Imari-style flower basket pattern suggests it is Japanese, but I am inclined to think it Chinese. Still, the base markings are unusual, to say the least! Of the six Chinese characters, the last three read Year of the Dragon. I have never heard of a zodiac year like this on Japanese ceramics. On the other hand, there is no Chinese reign-era name. One possibility could be it was made after fall of the Qing, but my hunch is it is a bit older. Not sure of the first three characters. Their Japanese reading could be Giken-do or Yoshinori-do, the name, perhaps, of the potter or the shop that sold the fishbowl. The smaller marks near the rim do not appear to be Japanese or Chinese script.( I saw similar marks once on the back of an Arita plate.) One final thing: the white glaze is actually greyish.

Comments for Fishbowl mystery

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Nov 27, 2011
The same bowl
by: Amy

I have been searching the internet to find information about my fishbowl and came across this on your site.

I have the same design. I have checked the markings on the base and it is the same. It only has the six red markings and not the others on the rim.

I notice the earlier post dates back to 2010. Did the person find any more information concerning the bowl?

Best regards


Sep 14, 2010
fish bowl
by: peter

Hello Peter,
I don't think this could be classified as Chinese Imari. Chinese Imari uses mainly red, blue and gilt.
Looking at this the first impression is that it is either Japanese or recent Chinese. The picture resolution is not sufficient to check on age signs, but I trust you checked that already and it is old!? If it is, my conclusion would be "Japanese".

I'll try to disperse your doubts:
If it were a Chinese antique, I would expect a band of decoration either below the rim or near the bottom, or both, with a traditional pattern. (There may be exceptions, but probably not many.)
Apart from the motif in the center window there is nothing in the decoration that looks Chinese to me.

As to the mark, it is as likely or unlikely in Chinese porcelain as it is in Japanese. Chinese porcelain occasionally does have zodiac year marks, but they are usually in the year notation of the 60 year cycle, in which case "dragon" is written with a different character. Also, there are instances of Japanese porcelain with classical Chinese marks. Therefore, it is difficult to judge origin based on the mark alone, in my view.

It would likely be a shop name on the right side of the mark, not a potter's name. "Do" combined with a person's name would be quite unusual in Japan.
As to the characters on the bottom, near the rim. You are right, this is neither Chinese, Japanese, nor Korean. And I have never seen such symbols on Chinese pieces, only on Japanese.

Personally, I feel this fish bowl is Japanese.
Did you try the forum? Some forum members there would know more regarding Japanese porcelain.
I would be glad to hear from you once you find out for sure what it is.

All the best

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