It is widely thought that the two-horned peony is a characteristic and unique feature only existed in Kangxi period. But Dr Yibin Ni has presented here with a number of examples of such peony patterns from other reigns on Chinese antiques.

image above: doucai porcelain moonflask, Yongzheng period (1723–35), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Shanghai Museum, China

Common sources such as Baidu (百度百科) refer to the motif of a peony flower head with two distinctive ‘horns’ (双犄牡丹) as a characteristic feature unique to Chinese porcelain of the Kangxi period (1662–1722). As a matter of fact, the tradition can be traced back as early as a fan painting by the legendary Ming romantic artist Tang Yin (唐寅, 1470–1524).

paper fan (detail), Tang Yin (1470–1524), Ming dynasty, courtesy of Suzhou Museum

Subsequently, the attractive ‘two-horned’ peony was appropriated on a rolwagen dated 1634.

rolwagen vase (detail), 1634, courtesy of Musee Guimet, Paris

We find another specimen of the motif created in the Ming dynasty, dated 1643, thanks to the salvage operation of the Hatcher Cargo.

two horned peony
Hatcher Porcelain Cargo, 1643, by Hiroko Nishida & Tetsuro Degawa (1997) “Minmatsu Shinsho no min’yo”

Then, in addition to the known examples of the Shunzhi (顺治, 1644–61) and Kangxi (康熙, 1662–1722) reigns, the Yongzheng (雍正, 1723–35) period still saw the ‘two-horned’ peony blossoming, as is vindicated by a famille rose bowl painted in the ‘boneless’ style (see below).

blue and white Shunzhi porcelain bowl with two horned peony
porcelain bowl, Shunzhi period (1644–61), by Butler et al (2002/140) ‘Shunzhi Porcelain: Treasures from an Unknown Reign’
porcelain bowl (detail), Kangxi period (1662–1722), courtesy of the National Museum, Beijing
two horned peony Kangxi porcelain Tutuhaoyi
porcelain bowl, Yongzheng period (1723–35), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Jingdezhen China Ceramics Museum
Guimet vase two horned peony flower motif
porcelain vase with overglaze enamelled decoration, early Qing dynasty, courtesy of Guimet Museum, Paris


Research work by Dr Yibin Ni. See interview with Dr Ni here.