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Yingqing-glazed Ceramic Pillow

Length: 17.5 cm. (6 7/8 in.)
Height: 10.9 cm. (4 7/8 in.)
Depth: 12.5 cm. (4 7/8 in.)

Northern Song period
11th century


(NOTE: Further information is provided below the detailed images.)




Each side of the ingot-shaped ceramic pillow was mold-pressed with a motif or scene, the dished headrest supporting two plump boys afloat on a dense floral diaper ground with a cash symbol between them, their bodies rump to rump, each looking over his shoulder at the other, one with a little smile on his face. A playful lion in strong relief on a scrolling and feathered vine ground occupies the front panel while a third boy appears fast asleep in an oversized peony on the back, all against ring-punched grounds. On each side a bulky fish-like dragon with scales and elaborate fins strikes a heraldic upright pose. A slight greenish tint colors the bright glaze that covers the entire pillow including the base where a small firing hole is visible. In each corner on one short end of the pillow, four circular unglazed areas indicate where the pillow rested when it was up-ended during the firing.

The combination of male children with dragons and a tiger makes this pillow not only a delight to look at but very auspicious as well. The attached PDF writeup includes some important comparative material but let it suffice to say here that bean-shaped pillows with related décor, each with young boys and most elaborate fish-dragons, are not uncommon and are represented here by a pillow from the Yeung Wing Tak Collection (fig. 1).1 What appear to be far less common are ingot-shaped pillows with dragon and young boy décor such as the present. Although the headrest design is not clear from the illustration, a boy in foliage on one side and a lion on the front face are visible in the illustration of a pillow in the National Museum of History in Taipei (fig. 2).


1. For an almost identical pillow formerly in the Kaikodo collection, see Kaikodo Journal I, Spring 1996, no. 74, p. 157. For similar pillows see the example from the Eumorphopolos collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London illustrated by John Ayers in Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, fig. 91 and also in Sekai Toji Zenshu, vol. 12 (Song), Tokyo, 1987, figs. 34-35, p. 176.


Fig. 1: Bean-shaped yingqing pillow with molded boy and dragon décor, Song dynasty, after Chinese Ceramic Pillows from the Yeung Wing Tak Collection, Osaka, 1984, no. 125, p. 63.


Fig. 2: Ingot-shaped pillow with molded boy and dragon décor, Song dynasty, National Museum of History, Taipei, after The Exhibition of Chinese Ceramics of Eight Dynasties, Taipei, 1987, p. 34 (top).


[Please download the PDF writeup below for further comparisons.]
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