Chicken Head Ewer

Accession Number

Chicken Head Ewer


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
porcelaneous stoneware with glaze

9 7/16 in x 7 7/8 in x 7 1/16 in (23.97 cm x 20 cm x 17.94 cm);9 7/16 in x 7 7/8 in x 7 1/16 in (23.97 cm x 20 cm x 17.94 cm);x 23 3/8 in x 59.37 cm

Credit Line
Gift of Ping and Zenobia Lee

Label copy
Gallery Rotation Summer 2013
3. Proto-Yue ware chicken-headed ewer
China, Zhejiang or Jiangsu province, Eastern Jin dynasty, 317–420
Stoneware with celadon glaze
Gift of Ping and Zenobia Lee, 2005/2.92
For reasons still unknown, these chicken-headed ewers were extremely popular and widespread throughout west and south China from the fourth through the seventh centuries. This vessel dates to the Six Dynasties period during which successive waves of nomadic invaders on China’s western frontier overran the north and forced the Chinese southward. Yet, this chaotic period gave birth to the world’s earliest known celadon glazes in southeastern China, such as in this ewer. As the tiny spouts are only barely functional, some scholars have suggested that this form may have been used for ritual or funerary purposes.

Subject matter
A celadon chicken head ewer (ji shou hu 鸡首壶) from the yue kilns of the Eastern Jin dynasty (317-439.)

During this time period, yue kilns were the leading center of ceramic and celadon production.  Chicken head other animal headed ewers, a product of the yue kilns, first appeared during the Western Jin dynasty (265-317) in the funerary context, and continued through the sixth century.  It is unknown if functional versions were made for daily use, but the examples found in tombs mostly have false spouts. The onset of this form, specifically its bird or chicken head, may have been influenced by the importation of metal ewers from Central Asia with similar motifs. What is particularly special about this is ewer is the dragon handle, with its mouth attached to the rim, as dragons are auspicious creatures in Chinese mythology, showing how the form was sinicized for Chinese taste and spiritual beliefs.

Physical Description
A porcelaneous stoneware, globular bodied ewer with a narrow, flaring neck, a dish-shaped mouth, a handle in the form of a dragon head and a neck extending from the rim to the shoulder.  The spout is in the form of a chicken head and two lug handles are on the shoulder.  It is covered in a pale gray green glaze. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Additional Object Classification(s)

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

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celadon (glaze)
ceramic (material)
ewers (vessels)
stoneware (pottery)

& Author Notes

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