A Short Story about a Ceramic Plate

By Pauline Ong, Life member of SEACS

This plate was made in the summer of 1939 in Jingdezhen, China. It is part of a 280-piece Chinese dinner set. 

The entire dinner set, as we know it today, consists of plates for cold starters, hot stir-fry dishes and hot main ‘meat’ courses, as well as an oval plate for fish, and a soup tureen with lid and ladle. 

My plate is part of the ten individual dinner placements comprising my plate, a sauce dish, a rice bowl, a soup bowl and spoon, a dessert bowl and spoon and finally a tea cup, saucer and lid.

The set was a gift to my mother from her sister as a wedding present in 1939, commissioned in a studio in Jingdezhen, a ceramic town in China that has been firing pottery since the sixth century.

The set has been a part of our family’s treasured possessions. After the war years in 1949, this dinner set followed our family to Hong Kong and subsequently to Singapore. Along the way, we lost most of the large pieces; others were broken and many distributed to members of our extended family.

The porcelain plate was first glazed and fired at 1200°C. Thereafter decorations in coral red and yellow were added and the plate was re-fired, this time at 600°C. The plate is decorated with three symbolic ornaments: flowers to represent blooming happiness, sturdy leaves to represent prosperity, and young bamboo shoots to represent increasing steps of growth ‘ever higher’.


The inscription on the plate reads:

己卯夏月,淑贞我妹赏玩,姐莲贞赠

ji mao xia yue, shu zhen wo mei shang wan, jie lian zhen zeng
“Summer of the year ji mao (1939) for my younger sister Shuzhen to enjoy. Presented by sister Lianzhen”.


Markings on the underside of the plate read:

源兴珍品 yuan xing zhen pin – name of the studio “yuan zhen treasures”