Chinese / Bowl / Northern Song period, 11th-early 12th centuryChinese
Northern Song period, 11th-early 12th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Bowl
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1001
Creation End Date: 1233
Creation Date: Northern Song period, 11th-early 12th century
Creation Place: China, Hebei Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain with incised design under glaze, the rim bound with copper (Ding ware)
Dimensions: H. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm); D. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.139
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: Ceramics made in China during the Song period (960-1279) are among the most influential and revered in the world: they are noted for their elegant, simple shapes, lush glazes, and lively designs. These ceramics are admired in part because of the complicated and varied technologies used in their manufacture. Since the late 12th and early 13th centuries, five of the wares produced during this period--Ding, Ru, Jun, Guan, and Ge--have been designated the "five great wares" of China.

Ding wares are among the first known to have been used at the Chinese court during the Northern Song period (960-1126). The kilns that produced these wares are located in present-day Jianci Village in Quyang County, Hebei Province, called Ding Prefecture during the Song dynasty. This delicate bowl decorated with an incised design of lotus flower and leaves exemplifies Ding ware of the 11th and early 12th centuries: it has a thinly potted, extraordinarily light buff-colored body, a warm ivory-colored glaze, and lively and precise incised decoration. Song-era Ding ware is considered the high point in the development of this ceramic type, which was produced from the 8th through 13th (or 14th) centuries. Until the 10th century, Ding ware was often undecorated, with the exception of a few pieces incised with lotus flowers and leaves. In Buddhism, the lotus is a symbol of purity; in this regard, it is interesting that some of the largest groups of early Ding ware were recovered from Buddhist monuments, suggesting a link between the production of the earliest decorated Ding ware and the practice of Buddhism.

The Ding kilns are generally credited with several important innovations in ceramic technology. These include the use of stepped saggars for firing vessels, the upside-down (fushao) firing technique, and the use of ceramic molds to impress designs on the pieces. A saggar is a clay box used to hold a ceramic piece while it is being fired. Saggars also help to prevent dirt from blemishing ceramics while they are in the kiln and help to control the temperature during the firing process. Prior to this Ding innovation, each ceramic was fired in an individual saggar. The invention of stepped saggars allowed the Ding potters to place ceramics one on top of another in a single saggar, thereby increasing the number of pieces that could be produced in a firing. The upside-down technique used in the stepped saggars also helped prevent warping during firing. This was particularly important in the production of Ding ware, which are among the thinnest ceramics produced in China. In order to prevent them from sticking to the saggars, the mouths of pieces were not glazed; the copper band fitted to the mouth of this bowl covers the unglazed rim. Finally, the introduction of reusable molds facilitated mass production.

The increase in production and the wider availability of Ding ware as a result of these technical innovations has sometimes been cited as one of the reasons for their loss of court favor in the late 11th century. Despite all the technical advances that occurred at the Ding kilns, glazes were not applied perfectly but had a tendency to run in drops that are known in Chinese as "tear drops" it has been suggested that this slight flaw was responsible for diminishing court patronage. Interestingly, the word used to describe these "tear drops," mang, can also be interpreted to mean "popular" or "vulgar."

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 64.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 55, 73.
Related Document Description: Mostra d'arte cinese: Settimo centenario di Marco Polo. Venice: Palazzo Ducale, 1954, p. 149.
Related Document Description: Mowry, Robert D. 'The Sophistication of Song Dynasty Ceramics.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 394-96.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Chinese Ceramics (auction, London, December 10, 1957), lot 40.
Related Document Description: Wirgin, Jan. 'Song Ceramic Designs.' Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 42 (1970), pp. 37, 257.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.139
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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