Revolving Vase Decorated with Swimming Goldfish and Gold Tracing on Cobalt Blue Glaze

Revolving Vase Decorated with Swimming Goldfish and Gold Tracing on Cobalt Blue Glaze

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

The Revolving Vase with Swimming Fish Decoration is in the collection of the National Palace Museum; it was made during the Qianlong reign of the Qing dynasty, and designated as a national treasure in 2019. The Revolving Vase has attracted global admiration, with viewers being astonished by the Qing dynasty porcelain industry.

The Revolving Vase with Swimming Fish Decoration was completed during the Qianlong period, and overseen by the Superintendent of the Imperial Porcelain Tang Ying. Qianlong praised its “mechanical style” and said that this porcelain was of “ masterful craftsmanship (linglong qiaogong).” The size of most of these ceramics is less than 40cm. They are made from two separate parts that fit together, just like the Revolving Vase with Swimming Fish Decoration, which has two parts, and is 23.1cm high. There is an inner and an outer vase, which are connected at the shoulder and the belly parts. These parts are fired in the kiln separately and then assembled.

The revolving mechanism is cleverly located at the neck of the vase. The vase is able to turn because of a groove at the bottom of the inner bottle that fits the protrusion at the bottom of the outer bottle. If the neck of the bottle is turned, the inner bottle will rotate accordingly. Through the opening of the outer bottle, the painted inner bottle can be seen. To make the rotating bottle rotate freely, the size of each component must be precisely calculated, repeatedly tested, and the kiln temperature precisely controlled, otherwise the whole device will be deformed and all previous efforts will be wasted.

National Treasure Appreciation

This vase is made from a set of two bottles, with a short neck, full shoulders, flattened belly, and a short circular footrim. The vase is divided into an inner and outer layer.

The outer bottle is decorated with four round ears, it has a celadon glaze, and is painted with gold, the bottle mouth is painted with hexagonal patterns, and then decorated with flower patterns; the belly wall is decorated with blue passion flowers and leaf patterns, there are four hollow openings that allow the inner bottle to be seen.

The inner layer is painted with a light blue lake green glaze to vividly express the color of the lake water, and then pastels are used to paint the aquatic plants, white and pink falling flowers and the eight differently colored goldfish.

At the bottom of the vase there is a circular pattern which is based on the shape of a lotus petal.

On the belly of the outer vase there are four hollow openings, the viewer can hold the vase from the neck and turn it, and through the open spaces of the outer bottle they can see the patterns of aquatic plants and fishes painted on the inner bottle swimming and playing in front of their eyes. This is like a revolving lantern, hence the name “revolving vase.”

The bottom of the vase is glazed with a light blue lake green glaze, and inscribed in blue and white seal script, “Made during the Qianlong Reign of the Qing Dynasty.”

The goldfish are painted with pink, white, orange, black and other colors.

The flowers are mainly white, with a few pink ones, dotted with light pink petals, and the stamens are decorated with a gold glaze. The stems of the aquatic plants are painted with black lines, and the dark green glaze is used to create the effect of the leaves.

Through the openings in the outer vase, you can see the aquatic plants and goldfish painted on the inner vase swimming leisurely in front of you.

Through the openings in the outer vase, you can see the different colored goldfish in the inner vase playing leisurely in the light green water.

Through the openings in the outer vase, you can see the different colored goldfish painted on the inner vase playing freely among the water plants and falling flowers in the turquoise water.

3D Gallery


    1. Yu Pei-Chin, “Tang Ying’s Supervision of the Making of Revolving Vases and Related Issues.” The National Palace Museum Research Quarterly, 31:4, 2014, pp. 205-249.
    2. Lin Boheng, The Essence of National Treasures: Vessels, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2006.
    3. Cai Meifen, Splendid Treasures: A Hundred Masterpieces of the National Palace Museum on Parade, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2011.
    4. Yu Pei-Chin, The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2014.


The National Palace Museum (NPM) was established on October 10, 1925, when there were tens of thousands of paintings and pieces of calligraphy in the collection of the Qing court, which could be seen in the Forbidden City in Beijing. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the NPM moved its cultural relics to the south of China. The war ended in 1945, however in 1948, because of the ongoing civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT) and Communist Party, the KMT moved the artifacts in the NPM to Taiwan, then temporarily placed them in Beigou, Wufeng, Taichung. Later, a new museum in Waishuangxi, Taipei, started to be built. The new building was completed in August 1965 and formally opened to the public in November. In December 2015, the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi officially opened.

The NPM’s collection of artifacts were inherited from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing courts. Later, the artifacts transported to Taiwan from the Preparatory Department of the National Central Museum were incorporated into the NPM’s collection. The NPM houses hundreds of thousands of collected and acquired artifacts. These have gradually been digitized and are available on the “National Palace Digital Archive.” Some digital image files of artifacts are available on the “Open Data ” and can be used by the public under a Creative Commons license.

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