A Dingyao brown-and-white glazed lotus-leaf-shaped brush pointer (Bitian)

北宋早期  定窯黑白釉蓮葉行筆添 

The brush pointer is modelled in the form of a large lotus leaf folded over to produce a flattened tubular structure, all supported on a broad footrim. The overlap is indicated by a slightly raised line, flanked by a pair of rectangular slots. The open ends of the tube have scalloped edges, coming to a rounded notch at the overlap on one side and to a square-sided notch on the other. The exterior, both top and bottom, and the underside of the base, is irregularly applied with a soy-sauce brown glaze, while the interior is applied with a transparent glaze of very pale straw colour. The footrim itself is unglazed, showing the fine white ware.

The Oriental Ceramic Society, "China Without Dragons", London, November 2016
Priestley & Ferraro, "Song Ceramics & Works of Art", London, November 2014, no. 14.

This fascinating and enigmatic piece can be identified as a brush pointer, one of the more seldom-encountered of the scholars' accoutrements. To use it, the scholar would draw an overloaded brush through the scallops at one end or other of the vessel and the excess ink would be collected in the interior. Ceramic bitian or brush pointers in green and in white-glazed ceramic dating from the Tang dynasty and Five Dynasties period are known, modelled in shape of simple lotus leaves with edges that curl in but do not meet. For an early Dingyao example, correctly identified, see Symposium on Ancient Chinese White Porcelain Proceedings, Shanghai, 2005, col. pl. 96, p. 718. A vessel closer in form though wrongly identified as a water pot, with the sides of the leaf forming a tube and with similar notches, dating from the Liao dynasty, is illustrated in the Inner Mongolia volume of The Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, no. 5, p. 51. The existence of the Liao piece taken together with the present one, suggests that both take their inspiration from a common model, perhaps a kind of rustic vessel formed from a real lotus leaf pressed into service as a brush pointer by folding the sides over and securing them by tying a reed through a pair of cut slots. The apparatus could then be carried by grasping it by the similarly cut notches on each side of the overlap.

Dimensions: Length: 26.7 cm, 10 ½ inches

Date: Early Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), 10th/11th century

Stock No. 1976

Price: On Request