Asian Antiques Appraisals And Valuations

What Is Da Ya Zhai (Dayazhai)?

The porcelain mark Da Ya Zhai, also known as the Studio of Greater Odes, has been linked to the Dowager Empress Cixi, who was a powerful figure in the late Qing dynasty in China. A wooden plaque bearing the characters Da Ya Zhai and one of two seals reading Tiandi Yijia Chun was found in the Imperial workshops.

Rosemary Scott, in her article ‘For Her Majesty’s Pleasure – Dayazhai Porcelain’, suggests that the new-style porcelains produced by the Da Ya Zhai studio were not produced until the Guangxu reign, and by the second year of Guangxu, 4,922 porcelains had been produced bearing both Dayazhai and Tiandi Yijia Chun marks.

The Dayazhai motif, which consists of scrolling grapevines with blossoms of peonies and magpies perched on a branch, is often found on imperial porcelain commissioned by the Dowager Empress Cixi. The designs were based on paintings by the Empress, although it is more likely that specific court painters created the designs based on her instructions. The motifs were produced in both the Tongzhi and Guangxu reigns, and there were five floral designs of Dayazhai wares, two of which represented Spring, the others Summer, Fall and Winter. The originals were made for the Dowager Empress’s personal and private use.

The Dayazhai porcelains are Imperial wares and always bear three marks: A red hall mark reading Daya Zhai “The Studio of the Greater Odes”, a motto within a small oval panel framed by two dragons that reads Tiandi yijia chun “The Whole World celebrating as One Family”, and a four character mark on the base that reads Yongqing changchun “Eternal Prosperity and Enduring Spring”.

However, it’s worth noting that during the Republic period, the designs were copied, sometimes with different ground colors than the originals, and the characters in the cartouche were written backwards as the pieces were made in “mirror” image pairs which was popular during that time. These copies were not of the same quality as the originals made for the Dowager Empress. In general, genuine Dayazhai porcelains made for the Dowager Empress are extremely rare and highly valuable.

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