TeabowlArtist(s)ChineseArtist NationalityChinese (culture or style)Object Creation Date13th centuryMedium & Supportstoneware with glazeDimensions
1 9/16 in x 5 9/16 in x 1 9/16 in (4 cm x 14.1 cm x 4 cm)Credit LineGift of Mr. and Mrs. Arno L. Bader for The James Marshall Memorial CollectionLabel copy
During the Muromachi period in Japan (1333–1573), trade with China was often handled through the agency of Zen Buddhist monks, who had learned Chinese through their religious studies. Several Zen monks traveled in person to the great Chan monasteries in southeast China and on their return brought back not only new Buddhist teachings but also the material and visual culture of late Song and Yuan dynasty China. As a consequence, the Zen monasteries of Kyoto became centers of Chinese learning and promoted the study of Chinese poetry, painting, and the art of drinking tea. The tea bowls the Japanese monks discovered in southeast China were the black glazed ware from the Jian kilns, known in Japan as tenmoku. The most highly prized varieties of tenmoku were those with the descriptively named "iridescent", "oil spot", and "hare’s fur" glazes. Modern potters in both China and Japan continue to work in these glazes to satisfy the contemporary market for tea wares. For an example of such modern tenmoku ware, please see UMMA 1963/2.66, 1980/2.164, and 1998/1.137.Subject matter
A jian ware (建窑 jianyao
), called tian mu
(天目) in China, or temmoku
in Japan, tea bowl of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) from Shuijizhen, Jianyang, Fujian Province, China.
As early as the Tang dynasty (618-907) the area of today’s Fujian province was famous for its tea production. Naturally, the kilns in that region specialized in tea wares, both provincial and for the court. During the Song dynasty a cluster of kilns, known as the Jian kilns, became famous for their sole production of dark iron-rich glazed stoneware teabowls. These bowls not only kept tea warm, but their dark glazes created an aesthetically pleasing contract against the thick milk-white whipped tea that was customary to drink during the Song.
A variety of controlled kiln “accidents” during the firing to temperatures up to 1,300 degrees Celsius, allowed for the crystallization of iron to create a variety of iridescent, spotted, and streaking effects, known as “oil spot,” “partridge-feather,” and most famous of all, “hare’s fur” glazes. Aesthete Song Emperor Huizong (r.1101-1125), in his Da guan cha lun
(Essay on tea in the Da Guan reign, 1107-1110) expressed this about the humble black bowls, “For green and black teacups are highly valued, and those with streaks like hare’s fur most of all.” Furthermore, the Ching-te-Cchen T’ao Lu
, written in 1795 by Lan Pu (trans. by Sayer), expresses, “In the Sung Days they preferred open-mouthed bowls for tea and considered the hare’s fur cups of Chien-an as the best” (64). These precious, yet humble teabowls were not just favored by the court, but by scholars and Chan (Zen) monks as well.
The literary records of hare’s fur and Jian teabowls in China and Japan are extensive. Literati culture flourished during the Song dynasty; to be a gentleman one must not only be well read in the classics, but also be a connoiseur of fine arts, and engage in cultural pursuits such as poetry, music, tea and wine drinking. Renowned Northern Song literatus Su Shi mentions the pleasure of using Jian teabowls, “Surprised, I suddenly saw the hare’s-fur markings (tumao ban) on my teabowl; I ladled fine wine from my spring jar” (Mowry, 30). Likewise, the Song dynasty scholar-official, Cai Xiang, in his treatise on tea or Chalu
, written on imperial command between 1049-1053, expresses both the practical and aesthetic merits of Jian teabowls from Fujian, and exclaiming they are the best: Tea is white, so black bowls are best. Tea bowls made in Fujian are deep; in color, they are bluish black with hare’s fur markings. Such bowls are thick-bodied; once warmed they retain their heat, so the tea does not cool too quickly. Tea bowls from other regions are either too thin or too purplish brown, so they are not as good as those from Fujian (Mowry, 30).
During the sixth century, the Indian Monk Boddhidharma introduced the merits of drinking tea while meditating to Chinese Buddhists. Chan (Zen) Buddhists of the Song dynasty, whose monasteries were numerous around Fujian, used whipped tea in ceremonies where tea was passed hand to hand between practitioners, also recognized the practical and aesthetic value of Jian teabowls. In 1223, Japanese Zen priest Dogon, along with Kato Shiro and Saemon Kagemasa, visited the monastery on Mount Tianmu (Temmoku
in Japanese), in Zhejian province, where Jian teabowls were in common use. Enamored, they traveled to Fujian to learn how to produce these teabowls. When they returned to Japan, they set up a kiln at Seto, to produce a similar product, which they called temmoku
. Nevertheless, the original teabowls from Jian were valued over the local production, and Song dynasty Jian teabowls were imported into Japan at great quantities beginning in the 13th century and lasting at least through the 16th century, as prized antiques to be used in Japanese tea-ceremonies.Physical Description
Shallow, wide conical light grey stoneware bowl on a tall straight foot ring, covered in a dark brown-black glaze with intense, and copious russet hare's fur (兔毫盏 tuhao zhan
) markings.Primary Object Classification Ceramic Primary Object Typetea bowlCollection AreaAsianRights
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