A Yaozhou basket-pattern grain-measure shaped cup

北宋   耀州窯柳斗紋鉢

The cup is finely potted with an almost hemispherical body, carved to varying depths on each side with concentric semi-circles, suggesting basketwork, bounded by a line border at the base of the contracted neck, with a further swiftly incised line border below the out-turned lip of the wide mouth. The cup is applied inside and out with an olive-green glaze pooling to a deeper tone in the recesses of the carving, leaving the small countersunk foot unglazed, showing the fine grey ware.

Exhibited: 
Priestley & Ferraro, 'Chinese and Korean Ceramics and Works of Art', November 2018, cat. no. 6

The cup has been used as a censer in Japan and has a Meiji period pierced silver cover, 
and two fitted wood boxes. The first box bears an inscription on the cover, reading 高麗瓷杯, Gao Li ci bei (“Goryeo ceramic cup”) and signed 葦滄署 Wei Cang shu (“signed by Wei Cang”). On the inside of the cover is a longer inscription, reading:

輹齋兄誇示余曰鮎貝槐園君曾見此稱佳品云已 葦滄識.

This can be translated as: “Fukusai (須永元 Sunaga Hajime (1868-1942)) admiringly showed me, saying Ayugai Kaien (1864-1946) had once seen it and called it a fine piece, which is enough said. Recorded by Weicang (吳世 昌 Oh Se-chang (1864-1953)”.

Sunaga Hajime was a Japanese scholar associated with the Korean Independence Movement. Ayugai Kaien (1864-1946) was a noted Japanese scholar and poet. Oh Se-chang (1864-1953), a famous Korean scholar, poet and calligrapher was also associated with the Korean Independence Movement and fled to Japan on two occasions. It was probably on the second occasion, in 1906, that he was shown this ceramic measuring bowl and wrote the inscription.

The outer fitted wood box bears the inscription 宋汝窯刻花碗, Song Ruyao ke hua wan (“Song dynasty Ruyao carved decoration bowl”), and a loose exhibition label, apparently from the Tokyo National Museum, repeating this information.

It is salutary to realize how little was known with certainty about Chinese (and Korean!) ceramics only a century ago, that a piece we easily recognize as a product of the Yaozhou kilns in Shaanxi could be misidentified twice, first as being Korean and then as Ruyao. We are fortunate that the careful Japanese system of identifying the contents of their fitted wooden boxes has preserved this fascinating sequence.

Dimensions: Diameter: 10.5cm, 4 ⅛ inches

Date: Northern Song dynasty (960-1127)

Stock No. 2246

Price: On Request