Contrary to common perceptions not all Chinese celadons are the same color, they are often not even green at all and yet they are called Celadon. Chinese glazes have so many variant shades of this color it nearly defies description.
They can be nearly black and they can be for all intent and purpose done in tones of blue and still be technically called celadons. This was most common in the colors of the pieces made during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan period (1279-1368). It was during these eras that many scholars and collectors feel had the most variations in the spectrum of color and and range of glazes. During the Song Yuan dynasties most of these wares were made in Jingdezhen and it is believed this was the starting point for their manufacture. This was truly a fascinating era of innovation, glaze and potting experimentation. The era’s influence over Chinese Art has lasted for centuries.
This early period was held in such high esteem by the Chinese that during the Qianlong Emperor’s (1736-1795) rule a revival took place attempting to replicate the ceramics made during this fabled time. Interestingly other items were also reproduced including Jades, paintings and lacquers. The quality of these revival examples were and still are astounding.
The bowl shown here was made during the Song Dynasty and while it appears bluish in tone, it is actually classified as a type of celadon. The exterior design is often described as a “Tear Drop” or “Flower Petal” pattern.
The interior is hand decorated with a charmingly done loosely executed flower, the foot is unglazed-nearly flat and the bowl’s rim has a dry brown dressing.
These bowls were made in one variety or another in both the Southern and Northern Song (960-1279). Some are slightly whiter and others are much bluer leaning to green. The glaze on this example and many others is very thin and to the eye free of bubbles. This is not always the case however as areas of suffused bubbles can be found where it has pooled as in the example of the foot rim of this cup which originally had a stand under it. In this example the viewer can see the dry rim resulting from the removal of glaze before firing.
The glaze is clear and pure which pools and fills the carved areas making it appear much darker and highlights the design. For the period of it’s manufacture, the paste used to make these bowls were very well levigated and most examples today a free of impurities being revealed after the firing.
Other examples exist with glaze free rims, on these the glaze has been wiped clean prior to firing to facilitate stacking of the bowl in the kilns. This style of bowls feature a variety of decorations predominated by varieties of flowers, boys in vines and on some examples fish are shown. The interior decorations to these bowls are a study unto themselves. Some are made in molds leaving a distinct raised relief patterns inside and out which tend to be rather complex and on other examples the decoration is a loosely or quickly drawn pattern. The bluer toned examples, in my humble experience, are more likely to be drawn rather than press molded.
During the Song Dynasty pieces were made in a bewildering variety of forms from stem cups to exotic animals. Some were in the form of buildings and in this example is a rather rare example of a barge or boat.
Later into the Yuan period larger Qingbai examples were made including figures and statues.
Among the most popular bottle or vase forms of this era and continued to be made for centuries was the Meiping vase form. Characterized by a gently upward expanding body that curves inward gently on a broad shoulder ending to form a tightly formed smallish neck and mouth.
The decortion on these can vary widely from busy high relief decoration to very delicate low relief drawing. This image is a molded and carved example.
NOTE: A good book on this topic is “Qinbai Ware: Chinese Porcelain of the Song and Yuan Dynasties”, By Rosemary Scott, Amy Barnes, Estelle Nikles and Catherine Teo. Edited by Stacey Pierson. It was published by the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 2002 ISBN: 0 7286 0339X