This beautiful kat mau (as these covered vases are known in Singapore, or cepu/chupu as they are known in Malacca, or himcheng as they were called in Penang) has excellent, clear provenance that dates to the 1940s, when it was acquired by an English family in Malacca.
The body and cover are decorated with bright enamels and shaped pink-ground panels with light green borders and decorated with a phoenix in flight over delicately shaded pink peonies, amid a light green background embellished with pink peonies. The top of the base and bottom of the cover have pink borders decorated with ribbons and Buddhistic/Taoist symbols. The base of thekat mau has a border of pink and green lappets. The cover is topped with a pale green handle or pull. The edges of this, the cover and the base are finished with gilt.
The base has a Wangshengshu Zao factory mark in red enamel. Kat mau vases are always finely potted. They had no definitive use but usually were part of the large wedding sets that the Straits Chinese commissioned from China. Possibly, they were used to serve bird’s nest soup or glutinous rice balls in syrup – delicacies that by tradition signified marital bliss and prosperity.
Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Porcelain: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1983.
Kee, M.Y., Peranakan Porcelain: Vibrant Festive Ware of the Straits Chinese, Tuttle Publishing, 2009.