Monk's Cap Ewer in Ruby Red Glaze

Monk's Cap Ewer in Ruby Red Glaze

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

The Ming dynasty Monk’s Cap Ewer with Ruby Red Glaze is in the National Palace Museum’s collection. It has a bright red body as saturated and lustrous as a ruby, thus it is called a ruby red ewer. From the “Preserved in Yongzheng’s Mansion (yongdi qingwan)” seal engraved on the bottom and Qianlong’s imperial inscription, it is obvious that this object was favored by emperors. In the scroll of “ A Beauty at Leisure: Distant Thoughts among Antiquities (Bogu Yusi) (now in the Palace Museum, Beijing, China), which is part of a set of 12 paintings commissioned by Yongzheng for the purpose of making a screen, the ruby red ewer can be easily spotted from the background.

The Xuande official kilns in the Ming dynasty were small in quantity, but their firing techniques were exquisite. These kilns not only produced various types of ceramic wares, but the glaze colors were also very diverse, which made these objects widely admired by many people. For example, the Ming dynasty official Zhang Yingwen said in the chapter “On Ceramic Ware” of Qingmicang, “The ceramic wares during Xuande Emperor’s reign are made of fine and dense materials…they will be masterpieces for generations.” Among the different objects, the ones with red glaze are the most precious. After the Xuande Emperor, due to the loss of knowledge about firing techniques and the exhaustion of glaze, it was no longer possible to fire ruby red porcelain, making this ewer very precious. It was designated as a national treasure by the Ministry of Culture in 2019.

National Treasure Appreciation

The mouth of the ewer is gradually raised along three steps, resembling the cap worn by Tang dynasty monks. The handle is flat and shaped like a ruyi scepter. The body is glazed with red as bright as a ruby, while the inside and outside of the vessel are glazed with white. There are white lines along the edge of the spout, which is one of the characteristics of red glazed pottery from the Xuande Emperor imperial kilns.

The “grass edge” is made by letting the glaze flow during the process of firing the porcelain. The red glaze fluid of the Xuande period was comparatively light and thin, and thus does not flow much. Therefore, after firing, it tends to leave white edges at the mouth of the pot and around the feet.

The lid of the ewer is attached with a pearl button cover. The three layers of the cover are umbrella-shaped. One side has a tie hole, and the other side protrudes into a pointed shape, which fits tightly with the spout.

The base of the circular pot is unglazed, and has been trimmed and made flat, which is one of the characteristics of the Xuande Emperor imperial kiln wares.
The Monk’s Cap Ewer with Ruby Red Glaze has no signature, but the bottom of the pot is engraved with one of Qianlong’s poems:
Made during Xuande’s reign,preserved in Dahezhai’s domain.
The elegance comes in its color and shape,often in awe, I highly praise.
The rare ruby, glistening and glittering,is most suitable to contain dew from early morning.
People compare it to a monk’s cap,yet who’s able to decide the boundary between illusion and reality?
Written in the mid-spring of Yiwei year (1775),with seals saying “Guxiang” and “Taipu. ”

It is also attached to a red sandalwood base, the bottom of which is engraved with “Yongdi Qingwan,” Qianlong’s imperial inscription and the seals “Bide” and “Langrun.


    1. Liao Baoxiu, Catalog of the Special Exhibition of the Ming Dynasty Xuande Emperor Imperial Kilns, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1998.
    2. Cai Meifen, Splendid Treasures: A Hundred Masterpieces of the National Palace Museum on Parade, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2011.
    3. Yu Pei-Chin, The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2014.
    4. Yu Pei-Chin, Curio Boxes of Qianlong Emperor, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2020.


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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