Qingbai water dropper

China, Song dynasty, 960-1279

Height: 2 3⁄4  inches, 7 cm

A qingbai porcelain water dropper in the form of a small ewer with a domed top.  The water dropper is constructed in two parts that are joined together and a short spout and a small loop handle are applied to opposite sides. On the shoulder to one side there is a small circular aperture that allows the ewer to be filled. Both sides of the body are moulded with a decoration of a flower blossom within a diamond shaped cartouche, against a background of raised dots. The exterior of the water dropper is covered in a pale blue glaze that stops just short of the flat base, which is unglazed and has characteristic reddish­-brown firing marks.


Small, lidless ewers such as this example were used to slowly pour drops of water onto freshly ground ink, to produce a mixture suitable for painting or calligraphy. Although it is not uncommon to find water droppers covered with a qingbai glaze, the raised dots decoration seen here is rare. This raised dot decoration, known as fish-­roe pattern or pearl pattern in  Chinese, is an imitation of the raised dots on gold ornaments that were especially popular during the Tang dynasty (618-906).[1]  Two closely comparable Song­-dynasty qingbai water droppers of similar form, and decorated with diamond shaped cartouches on a raised dot ground, were excavated from the Hutian kiln site in Jingdezhen.[2] A water dropper of very similar form and decoration is in the Muwen Tang Collection.[3]

  1. Kwan, S., Song Ceramics­ – The Muwen Tang Collection Series Vol. 11, Hong  Kong, 2012, p. 304
  2. Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Jingdezhen Museum of Civilian Kiln, Hutian Kiln Site in Jingdezhen­ Report on excavations from 1988 to 1999-­II, Cultural Relics Press, Beijing, 2007, colour plate. 136­3 &5
  3. Kwan, S., op. cit., no. 109, p. 304