Yaozhou stoneware bowl

China, Northern Song dynasty, 11th ­ 12th century

Diameter: 4 5⁄16 inches, 11 cm
Height: 1 3⁄4 inches, 4.5 cm

A stoneware bowl of wide conical shape with a flared rim and a short, straight foot. The interior of the bowl is mould­-impressed with a lotus pond scene, with lotus blossoms and leaves interspersed among elaborate tendrils, and two fish swimming through wavy water, which is engraved with a linear comb pattern. The exterior of the bowl is plain. The bowl is entirely covered in a lustrous translucent olive­-green glaze, which pools to a slightly darker colour in the recesses. Small clusters of kiln grit adhere to the base.


This finely made stoneware bowl is characterised by fine, competent potting, which was executed on a wheel, after which the sides were thinned down using a special tool. During the Song period, the use of moulds to create a decorative pattern became commonplace.[1]   The Chinese fascination for green­-glazed high­-fired wares goes back to the introduction of the earliest glazes and, in the case of yaozhou wares, continued well into the 14th century.[2]  The lotus motif frequently appears in the early period.[3]  A closely comparable Song dynasty yaozhou bowl impressed with a bunch of flowers and also engraved with a linear comb pattern, slightly smaller in size but similar in both the flared rim and the plain exterior, is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.[4]  Another comparable yaozhou bowl with a design of ducks among waves, similar in size, the colour of the glaze and dated to the Northern Song dynasty, is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.[5]  A third comparable Northern Song yaozhou bowl impressed with a decoration of four boys climbing plants, similar in size and shape, is in the Sir Alan Barlow collection in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.[6]

  1. Vainker, S.J. Chinese Pottery and Porcelain: From Prehistory to the Present, British Museum  Press, London, 1991, p. 113
  2. Mino, Y. and  Tsiang, K.R. Ice and Green Clouds, Traditions of Chinese Celadon, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986,  p. 13
  3. Medley, M. The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics, Phaidon, Oxford, 1976, p. 116
  4. Li, Huibing ed., Liang Song  Ci Qi, vol.I­ Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quaji, Shangwu yinshuguan, Hong Kong, no. 112, p. 126
  5. Kerr, R. Song Dynasty Ceramics, V&A Publications, London, 2004, nos. 51, 51a, p. 56
  6. Tregear, M. Song Ceramics, Thames and Hudson, London, 1982, no. 126, p. 108