The deep conical bowl, supported on a delicate foot surrounding the recessed base is thinly potted with gently curved, translucent sides rising to a mouth rim that is notched at six points suggesting a floral form. The incised scrolling design on the interior is ordered around three broad loops, two framing single stylized chrysanthemum blossoms and the third an abstract leaf form. Bud tendrils sprout throughout against the combed and stippled background. The glaze is thin, clear, and bright, tinted a cool pale blue and pooling in the shallow recesses of the incised and rouletted design creating a subtle depth in color and image. The fine white body is visible at the unglazed center of the base where the bowl was raised on a round ceramic pad to support it during firing. Some dark accretions from the firing pad are present.
We never tire of Jingdezhen’s multitude of fragile bowls, symbols of the great achievement of its potters, some of these ceramics were produced even before the influx of ideas, styles, potters and patrons from the north around AD 1126-1127 during the invasion of the north and the conquest of the Song dynasty by the Jurchen invaders. While Jingdezhen benefitted economically and creatively from the exodus of Chinese southward, impressive wares were being produced at Jiangxi’s major center of ceramic production well before, that is, at least since the 10th century during the Five Dynasties period. The present bowl was likely produced pre–Southern Song, a date supported by a precisely similar bowl found in a tomb in Jiangxi dated to AD 1109 (fig. 1).
The natural resources of northern Jiangxi were conjured into such fragile ceramics, pure white in body, and compared to the sturdier northern white wares, almost crystalline in texture, and the sine qua non, a cool, blue cast to the thin, glassy glazes. Turning the bowls until very thin walls were achieved and sometimes even paring them down could further produce walls thin enough to be greatly translucent when held against a light. The notched rims provided additional aesthetic enhancement, even though that technique had likely been devised to relieve stress on the walls of a bowl and thus avoid warping during firing and cooling.
Fig. 1: Yingqing bowl with incised floral design from a late Northern Song period tomb datable to 1109 in Jinxixian, Jiangxi province, after Rita Tan, et al., Dated Qingbai Wares of the Song and Yuan Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1998, no. 28, p. 52.