Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia:
Collections in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

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Spouted bowl with molded decoration

  • Porcelain with transparent pale blue ("qingbai") glaze
  • 3.8 x 11 cm
  • Qingbai ware
  • 1279-1368, Yuan dynasty
  • Origin: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, China
  • Provenance: Indonesia
  • Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
  • F1976.6


Spouted bowl; low with flat base.
Clay: white porcelain of "sugary" lightweight type characteristic of Ch'ing-bai wares, glassy in fracture. Surface of unglazed base and rim is light buff from iron oxidization. The same firing effect, but a deeper rusty color, appears where glaze has skipped and shows through where glaze is thin in bottom of cup. Inside the bowl has appearance of having been wiped, either in the wet clay or with slip.
Glaze: Qingbai type: feldspathic; uneven thickness; transparent, but with some opacity due to bubbles and slight scumming; uneven color varying from pale bluish gray to strong aqua greenish-blue and pale blue tint; crackle appears on outside of spout only. Rim of spout is glazed but plain bowl rim and base are unglazed. Glaze has skipped a large area inside spout and in small spots on outside of spout. Some dark inclusions have appearance of iron.
Decoration: six moulded lotus-petal panels under the glaze, two partly obscurred by spout and its application. Apparently the round bowl was moulded first and then the cut made and spout applied. A scroll-form loop was applied beneath the spout.

Published References

1. Joseph, Adrian M. 1973. Chinese and Annamese Ceramics found in the Philippines and Indonesia. London: Hugh Moss Publishing, pl. 19.

2. Murray, Julia K. 1979. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions, 1970–1980. Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 31.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (J. Knapp, 1976) This bowl has been identified as Ch'ing-pai ware after comparison of body and glaze with other Ch'ing-pai ware in the collection, especially that considered to be of the Yuan period. The Yuan date rests on this comparison with Freer pieces and with generally accepted published pieces of Yuan date. The spouted bowl shape is a Yuan form. Typically these bowls are larger and are better known in underglaze blue and underglaze red. A number of examples were shown in the exhibition, "Chinese Art Under the Mongols." Refer to Nos. 133, 169, 61 in the catalogue published by the Cleveland Museum. Medley 1972, 62, notes that this spouted bowl shape was probably not made after about the middle of the 14th century. Examples are the Malcolm collection's Shu-fu type bowl (ibid., pl. 20B) which compares easily in proportion, spout shape and loop with the Freer piece; the Victoria and Albert's white-on-blue (ibid., pls. 57 A–B), the blue bowl with gilt decoration from the Pao-ting hoard excavated in 1964 and now in the Hopei museum (ibid., pl. 56B); the Baur Foundation's Chun piece which has small feet and a complete rim (ibid., pl. 84A). Miss Medley (ibid., 94) places this last piece in early Yuan (late 13th or early 14th century), and notes that it is based on a silver prototype unknown before the 13th century." Specimens in silver have been found in the Central Asian and Iranian area and an example is in the Islamic Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum." Medley 1972, illustrates this in pl. 14a. Discussing the form on the following page, she calls the form "indisputably Persian." It is of the Seljuk period, late 12th or 13th century. Kansas City has a Chinese silver bowl of the 14th century (pl. 14c). There are examples in several southern ceramic wares—Ch'ing-pai, Shu-fu, celadon, as well as the underglaze decorated wares. After Yuan this imported shape, as far as we know, is seen no more.

Medley, Margaret. 1972. Metalwork and Chinese Ceramics vol. London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, University of London.

2. (J. H. Knapp, 1976) This bowl is published in Joseph 1973, pl. 19, when it was in the collection of Ken Baars.

Joseph, Adrian M. 1973. Chinese and Annamese Ceramics found in the Philippines and Indonesia. London: Hugh Moss Publishing.

3. (Julia K. Murray, entry 21, A Decade of Discovery, 1979) “A shape that disappears after the 14th century, this spouted bowl is found in a variety of wares throughout the Yuan period. According to one theory, the form was derived from the Persian silver pourer that was invented in the Seljuk period of the late 12th to early 13th century. [1] Chinese examples in silver that follow the Persian prototype faithfully are known from the 14th century. [2] Some pottery imitations preserve metalwork characteristics, such as the scrolled handle below the pouring spout. Others adapt the shape more freely and give it a purely ceramic character. [3]

“The exterior of the petite vessel bears a simple molded pattern of six stylized lotus petals with a leaf inside. It was probably first constructed as a whole round cup, with a pouring spout inserted afterward. This is evident from the sudden interruption of the lotus-petal pattern in a manner that suggests the removal of a portion of the body in order to add a spout. The piece was then glazed and fired.

“Qingbai ware, produced especially in Kiangsi province where the blue-and-white wares later centered, is a type that appeared during the Sung dynasty. It is thought to be one of the precursors to blue-and-white ware, which arose in the early 14th century. This piece shows the thin sugary body characteristic of qingbai, and the unglazed base and rim reveal a light buff color resulting from iron oxidation in the kiln. Uneven in color, the glaze ranges from greenish blue to pale blue, with a few skips and bubbles evident in its surface. The interior of the bowl seems to have been wiped while still wet, leaving a broad streak under the glaze.

Footnote 1: Medley, Margaret. 1972. Metalwork and Chinese Ceramics vol. London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, University of London, p. 15.

Footnote 2: “Several examples have been excavated in the People's Republic of China. Six were found at Ho-fei, Anhui, in a hoard datable to 1333; reproduced in Wen Wu ts'an-k'ao tz'u-liao 1957 no. 2, pp. 53–54. This find is discussed by Laurence Sickman in "Chinese Silver of the Yuan Dynasty," Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America, vol. 11 (1957), 80-81. An unprovenanced example belongs to the Nelson Gallery; reproduced in T'ung Wu and Jan Fontein, Unearthing China's Past, (Boston, 1973), cat. no. 104.

Footnote 3: “Examples of the former type include four pieces reproduced in Sherman Lee and Waikam Ho, Chinese Art under the Mongols (Cleveland, 1968): a blue-and-white, belonging to Jean Gordon Lee (cat. no. 133); a white-on-blue, belonging to the Victoria and Albert Museum (cat. no. 158); an underglaze red, belonging to the Philadelphia Museum (cat. no. 169); and a spotted celadon, also owned by Jean Gordon Lee (cat. no. 84). Examples of the type without the scrolled handle are a celadon in the former Lady David's collection (cat. no. 61); a chun example in the Bauer Collection in Geneva, reproduced in Medley, Metalwork, pl. 14b; and a gilt-on-blue found in a hoard at Pao-ting Hopei (Wen Wu 1965 no. 2, pl 2/4).

4. (Exhibition label text, Gallery 15, 15 March 1982 – 10 July 1986) Ch'ing-pai pieces of the Yuan dynasty are more heavily potted. On the spouted bowl (F1976.6), both the shape and the low relief design of the cloud panels applied in slip are characteristic of the 14th century. The Mei-p'ing with carved foliate design (F1997.58) demonstrates the subtle change in silhouette this particular type of vase has undergone since the 11th century.

5. (Jan Stuart, exhibition label text, April 1995, for F1944.15, F1929.14, F1976.6 and F1916.2) ["South China, Jiangxi Province, Jingdezhen" added to attribution. "Glazed porcelain with molded decoration" also added.]

Early Wares: Ding, Jun, and Qingbai

Named after an ancient production center in northern China, Ding ware is renowned for its creamy white glaze. In the eleventh to twelfth century, potters there introduced durable, reusable molds that bore designs carved into their surface. By exerting pressure on a malleable disc of clay placed over a mold, a potter could make the clay take the shape and decoration of the mold. The majority of Ding ware was produced for general consumers; molded wares had special appeal because they often imitated costly metalware and were affordable.

At the Jun-ware kilns, which were also in northern China, molds were used to form complicated shapes that could not be thrown on a wheel, such as the quatrefoil planter to the right. The opalescent purple-blue glaze is the hallmark of the Jun kilns.

The success of the Ding-ware carved molds quickly spread to the Jingdezhen kilns in southern China, where potters employed similar molds to make highly decorated, utilitarian boxes and bowls. They are covered with a bluish-white glaze known as qingbai, which was developed at Jingdezhen to emulate the texture and color of treasured white jade. The desire to imitate qualities of precious materials, including jade, metal, and textiles, in the more affordable medium of ceramic wares was a major impetus in the development of new types of ceramics.

[For F1976.6:] The shape of this porcelain bowl made in the Yuan dynasty derives from Islamic metal pouring vessels. Its exterior bears a molded pattern of stylized lotus petals; the loop beneath the spout is decorative and recalls the functional suspension loop on the metal prototypes. Yuan dynasty China was ruled by Mongolians, who had an established trade relationship with Islamic merchants, which they extended into China. Thus, orders for ceramics modeled after Islamic vessels were placed by foreign merchants who sold them in China and exported quantities of such wares to other parts of Asia.

6. (Louise Cort, 27 July 2006) Coming from the collection of Ken Baars, this bowl presumably had been in Indonesia, where Baars formed his collection. Other pieces acquired from Baars by the Freer Gallery had such provenance. Under Geography, Provenance, added Indonesia.

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