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HISTORICAL AND STYLISTIC SETTING
In the history of Chinese ceramics, the Yuan period has been regarded in the past as an ugly duckling. If an object was of indifferent quality, or of no special aesthetic merit, there used to be a tendency to attribute it without further ado to the Yuan period. With specimens of high quality and exceptional aesthetic merit attribution was equally arbitrary and prompt to either the Sung dynasty, for celadon, Chiin and Kuan wares for instance, or to the Ming for white wares, copper red and blue and white.It has also been held that the Mongols had no real interest in the arts, that they did not find Chinese taste congenial, and that in consequence they neglected the creative arts. Within certain limits this judgement is true, and it has been assumed as the result that, ceramically speaking, the Yuan period was one of technical stagnation and aesthetic indigence. In the event nothing could be farther from the truth as the research of the last twenty years has proved. Ahhough our knowledge of the period is still rudimentary oil account of the exceptional difficulties with regard to textual and archaeological evidence in the broadest sense, a new picture of this brief hundred and fifty year period has begun to emerge. In terms of ceramic history the age of the Mongols is of fundamental importance to the development of the craft, technical advances being made without which the great attainments of the fifteenth century would have been impossible.
The Chinese artist-craftsman was always prepared to adopt new ideas, to digest, to transform and exploit them to suit the common taste, and it was perhaps the Mongols’ greatest contribution that for the most part they remained aloof, neither apparently imposing standards, nor making exacting demands in terms of form or style. They thus indirectly left the potters, who had possibly become weary of the debilitating introspective tendencies arid extreme refinement of Sung aristocratic taste, to explore new areas in both techniques and design. ‘Hie only direct contribution to the ceramic industry made by the Mongols was the opening of intercourse with the west whereby new’ conceptions of form and decoration were enabled to penetrate.1 Tiie freedom from stringent control of the production was to bring its own reward, as was the new’ opportunity to respond to the stimulus of the foreign trade.
At the beginning of the twelfth century the Northern Sung dynasty was subjected to a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Jurchen Tartars from the north, who had first extinguished the Liao in Manchuria and the northernmost regions of China itself. In 1127 tiie Jurchen forced the Chinese court and government to flee south, thus bringing the Northern Sung to an abrupt and ignominious end, wliile they established themselves as the Chin dynasty in the territory north of a line from the Tsin-ling mountains in the west to the Huai river valley in the east. Less than a century later the Chin themselves were to be threatened by the Mongols, whose first step towards the domination of China was taken in 1208. In that year Genghis Khan, taking advantage of the death of the Chin ruler Chang-tsung, who was his suzerain, refused to recognize the new king, Wei-chao Wang, thus terminating his long-standing allegiance to the Chin people. Within three years of this event, the assault on north China began, and by 1215 Peking had fallen to the invaders. During the following eight years the pressure was maintained against the Chin, whose capital, now at K’ai-feng on the Yellow river, was constantly threatened, not only from the north and west, but also from the eastern province of Shantung. The final destruction of the Chin and the total occupation of north China to as far south as the Huai river was accomplished by Genghis Khan’s third son, Ogodai, in 1234, surprisingly with the help of the Southern Sung, whose emperor committed the folly of seeking an alliance with the Mongols to help him in his own struggle against the Chin. Thus was repeated the strategic error of the emperor Hui-tsung, who a century earlier had sought the help of Lhe Chin against the Liao with such disastrous results. Ogodai began his attack on the Southern Sung in the following year, but owing to squabbles among the Mongols themselves on the succession to the Great Khanate following the death of Ogodal at the end of 1241, the threat of disaster was temporarily withdrawn. The final assault began in. 1251, with pressure being exerted on the Chinese not from the north, but from the west, and the protracted campaign finally came to an end under Kublai Khan in 1275 following the fall of Hangchou.
For the first forty years of Mongol rule China existed in a state of relative peace. The vast territories of the new empire were systematically linked up by an efficiently policed network of roads, and trade passed freely into and out of China across Central Asia. With the renewed contact with western Asia came also the transmission in both directions of ideas and invigorating cultural influences. At the same time the sea-borne trade, along the south-east coast, much of it government sponsored and controlled, developed to a new level of prosperity with the help of the Arab and Persian communities at the ports down the coast from Ning-po in the north to Canton in the south. In Sung times the urgent need to maintain a strong defence against the northern tribes like the Khitans, the Hsi-hsia and the Jurchen had forced the Chinese government to exploit every possible means available to increase the revenue, and the means chosen that had the most far-reaching effects was that of taxing the foreign trade. What in Sung times had been developed for reasons of economic expediency was further exploited by the y uan rulers as part of a deliberate policy aimed at the extraction of the greatest possible wealth from the native Chinese for whom they cared nothing; they were in fact out for loot and luxurious living. It is particularly important to remember that although in Sung times there had grown up a i new urban merchant class in a position to influence the trade to some, extent, the real control of trade under the Yuan lay in the hands of the privileged foreigners, Persians, Arabs, Central Asians, Uighurs and many other alien peoples among whom we can number such a man as Marco Polo, whose allegiance was to the Mongol rulers rather than to the Chinese people. The Mongol practice of employing educated foreigners in the higher echelons of the administration in preference to the Chinese scholar-officials, whom they regarded with well-deserved suspicion, undoubtedly resulted in a fairly rapid influx of new ideas and techniques from abroad, of which some at least were quickly absorbed by the receptive Chinese. Some of these influences we recognize instantly in the art of the period. The most obvious one to spring to mind is, of course, the introduction of cobalt blue for the V decoration of porcelain.
During the Sung period the port to carry the greatest volume of the overseas trade was Canton, but already during the Southern Sung a shift had begun to Ch‘iian-chou in northern Fukien, about five hundred miles up the coast to the north. It was through this port, more conveniently placed in relation to the centres of the ceramic industry, that the enormous volume of trade flowed during the whole of the Yuan dynasty. It is significant that not only was there a large and nourishing Persian community resident in its own quarter in Ch’uan-chou, with its own mosques and cemeteries, but that at. the end of the Sung and the beginning of the Yiian the Chief Superintendent of the Shipping was himself of Persian extraction and that his whole family, an extremely wealthy one, was engaged in the foreign trade, owning and operating a large fleet of ocean-going merchantmen.
The increasing concentration of ceramic production in the south, particularly in the province of Kiangsi, with Chekiang and Fukien nearly as important in the industry) inevitably meant that the relatively convenient ports of Ch’uan-chou and later Wu-chou slightly farther north would be among those to which the merchants interested in the new products of the potteries would most frequently gravitate. Of all the provinces involved in the ceramic industry, Kiangsi and Chekiang were dominant, not so much on account of the number of kilns that w’ere in operation as because of the phenomenal output and the increasing emphasis placed on high quality; later the Kiangsi kilns were to outstrip those of Chekiang on both counts. The numerous potteries of Jao-chou prefecture, which included those of Ching-te Chen, were systematically developed duri ngthe Mongol period and became the main focus for both the domestic market and the foreign trade. The enormous output of this period and of the succeeding Ming is now sufficiently well known to require little further comment, but it is perhaps as well to bear in mind that the Chinese had no inhibitions whatever about the quality of the wares for export; almost everything could be and was sold. The wide variation in the quality of objects from excavations in South-east Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines, let alone the Islamic west, demonstrates this clearly; wasters and wares of so-called ‘imperial’ quality can be found in very close association in these areas, although generally speaking the trade to the Islamic west, especially to the eastern Mediterranean and to Persia seems to have been on a slightly higher level, the best being of superlative quality, and in greater quantity. The character of the wares for the Islamic market was in any case rather different from that intended for other Asian markets and there seems to have been a genuine willingness on the part of the Chinese to supply wares in forms agreeable to Muslim taste. The massive dishes, plates, jars and vases with their lavish decoration would appear to be evidence oF this, and undoubtedly Lhe increasing wealth of the Mamluke-dominated eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean and the Islamized Mongol Ilkhanate of Persia could well be expended on the best the Chinese were able to supply. In fact it would seem that the greatest achievements in ceramics in the Yuan period were largely dependent for their initial inspiration upon the very lively interest shown by the foreign merchants in China’s unique production. Imperial taste of the Mongol rulers in China did not direcL the production of this era as it had done in the Sung and was to do again in the Ming, and we find export celadons and blue and white wares especially attaining standards in terms of quality and splendour of decoration that have rarely been surpassed except under strictly directed imperial patronage and in other periods.
The question of imperial patronage is a vexed one, which fortunately we can to a large extent ignore in studying the material of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Ceramic production was little affected by pretensions of imperial taste, in that each locality tended to continue the manufacture of the types of ware upon which it had been engaged in Sung times, though in many cases with a falling standard in terms of quality. This applied especially to the kilns in the north, such as those concentrating on the manufacture of Northern Celadon at centres like Yao-chou in Shensi, the Chun kilns of J .in-ju Hsien and Hao-pi-chi, though to a lesser extent in the main centres associated with the Tz’ii-chou type wares. Most of these northern centres suffered severely at the beginning of the twelfth century when the Khitans, and later the Jurchen Tartars, overran large areas. The Mongol invasion of the north at the beginning of the thirteenth century administered the coup de grace to many of the kilns, only those in Honan and Hopei being able to survive the onslaught. The level of production in the kiln centres that succeeded in maintaining their identity often fell off, and in some cases, as at Y”ao-chou for instance, finally faded away, probably before the middle of the fourteenth century. A certain number of kilns in Hopei and Honan specializing in ordinary’ everyday white or black wares of rough strength continued to operate right through the fourteenth century, and a few continued into the Ming dynasty.
If the northern areas show some decline in both quality and quantity during the Yuan period, the reverse is true of the south. The establishment of the Sung court and government at Hangchou had resulted effectually in shifting the economic focus of China to the southern provinces, a change which had begun some centuries earlier. The presence of a wealthy and demanding society not only stimulated those potteries already in operation to produce fine quality wares but also brought about the opening of many new kilns in Kiangsi, Chekiang, Fukien and Kuang-tung, where the resources of raw materials have subsequently proved almost inexhaustible. The variety of wares was as great as ever it had been in- the north, arid some types originally made in the north were to some degree imitated by the southern kilns. The most important advance in the ceramic field in the south was the concentration, not just on Jao-chou as a centre, but also on the while wares of the whole province. Thus the Yuan marks the beginning of Lhe change-over from stonewares, that is wares fired at high temperatures with bodies varying in colour, to the line white porcelains, hard, vitrified and translucent, that we now automatically associate with the name of China. There was at first the chting-pai, and- then other white wares of Jao-chou and those of Fukien, the latter which in later centuries were to achieve world-wide repute. These white wrares were equalled in quality by the Chekiang celadons and some of the whitish bodied stonewares painted in black or brown on a pale creamy slip that were produced in the vicinity of Chi-chou in the southern end of the province of Kiangsi.
The great export irade in ceramics that had been fostered in the later years of the Southern Sung, was seized on and deliberately exploited by the Mongols, who were eager to squeeze the wealth out of their «ewrly conquered empire. It was indeed their emphasis upon the monetary benefits of trade and industry, at the expense of agriculture, that was a major factor leading to their downfall. For their immediate purpose they were not slow to realize the immense profit to be reaped from the expansion of the export trade in ceramics, or indeed from the proper organization of the ceramic industry. On this last point we are surprisingly well informed since the local history of Fu-liang Hsien, compiled by Mongol orders in 1322, included a short work called T‘ao-chli liieh, usually translated ‘Appendix to the Ceramic Records’, by Chiang Ch‘i, about whom nothing is known beyond the fact that he was apparently a man of some education who took the trouble to talk to the workmen engaged in the industry and learn some of the terminology, even if he did not always understand what was meant. The earliest surviving ediLinn of this text dates from 1683 when it was included in a new, revised edition of the local history. It probably suffered some corruption in the course of the three hundred and fifty years between its composition and its inclusion ill the K‘ang-hsi edition of the Fu-liang Hsien chih, to give the local history its correct title. The information contained in the short and difficult text is of t he greatest value in assessing the extent of the trade and the economic distribution of labour within the ceramic industry; it also has valuable information on certain aspects of technique. Among the source materials there is nothing comparable in the whole history of Chinese ceramics and it is unfortunate that the only available translation of it by Bushell is so full of errors as to be virtually useless.
In Sung times, if we accept t he implications of Chiang Ch‘i’s text, there was great leniency exercised in relation to the tax system for ceramics, with the consequence that the wealth and prosperity of the Fu-liang region was considerable. The Mongols no doubt appreciated this industrial prosperity and immediately set about the task of organizing it in such a way as to ensure that the bulk of the profits were siphoned off into their own coffers. During the Sung period, and possibly even earlier, it was the wares themselves and the commercial transactions in winch they were involved as merchandise, that were subject to taxation, but with the establishment by the Mongols of a Ku-iiang Porcelain Bureau between 1293 and 1295 ‘to control the kilns arid the production of the porcelains, the way was opened for the introduction of a new system of revenue collection. By the time Chiang Ch‘i wrote his ‘Appendix’ this new system had clearly been in operation long enough to call forth no more than its bare description and tlie expression of the normal exasperated complaints against the rapacious and unjust habits of junior tax collectors, who extracted numerous unofficial fees over and above the accepted limits.
The system introduced was, briefly, that kilns had to be registered in accordance with a standard of measurement of capacity and the number of long-term craftsmen employed. The taxes were graded on the basis of this capacity and employment potential, and also on the basis of ‘government approved sizes of vessels’; this last stipulation may have been carried over from the old Sung system. The kilns themselves could only be fired after the payment of a fee. The new regulations were evidently strict and offences against them might result not only in the imposition of a fine on the individual but might involve ‘even the porters and merchants being collectively accused of the crimes’, If an order came through from the capital for the supply of wares for the central government, a time limit was set for the completion of the order, which if not adhered to resulted in a great deal of unwelcome chivying of the craftsmen and additional financial exactions, in spile of the regulations, restrictions, unofficial exactions by the authorities and the large dues payable to the county and provincial government., the ceramic industry contrived to remain a thriving one. The market supplied was very large, and according to Chiang Chh Lhere was a ready sale even for wasters. The preferences of the different provinces were considered and carefully catered for to the material advantage of the potteries. It is worth noticing that the Fu-liang area was riot the only one with a large and thriving ceramic industry in souLh China at this time. Chiang names a number [/ of areas where there was a large production, among which were Chien-yang in Fukien, Nan-feng in Kiangsi and Lung-cldiian in Chekiang and he adds to this list Chan-ting in the north, in the province of Hopei, which he says produced Ted wares’. The descriptions he gives of the products do not, as a general rule, justify positive identification with the wares with which we are familiar today, but hints are to be found in his text which seem to support our attributions to the fourteenth century of at least some of the types we know.
In view of what has been explained up to this point it is clear that the study of Chinese ceramics under the Mongols involves the acceptance of certain previously neglected facts. In the first place we have to remember that China came under alien control in 1127, and under specifically Mongol domination about a century later, approximately half a century before the final collapse of the Southern Sung dynasty. We also have to recognize that the date 1280 for the establishment of the Yuan dynasty is a conventional one and somewhat unrealistic. The Mongols were in effective control of most of China including the important province of Kiangsi by 1275, and there remained after this date only isolated pockets of resistance along the south and south-east coasts. We are thus faced with the need when discussing ceramics particularly of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to specify not the dynastic attribution of the piece we are discussing, but the approximate century or part of century, and if possible to make clear the centre or area in which it was produced.
When we turn our attention to the wares themselves the chronology of the Mongol conquest becomes important in as much as the stylistic elements found in the north differ noticeably from those current in the south until some time after the new rulers had established themselves securely in what had been the Southern Sung empire. A boldness ar d spontaneity of treatment, often highly individual and characteristic of a specific locality, was already common in the north even under the Chin rulers in the wares of Tzhi-chou type. Certain elements in the decoration of this ware particularly are distinctively northern in origin; for instance the angular meander seen just below the main field of the jar, this appears in the decorative repertoire of north China at least three centuries before vve find it in the south in such wares as the blue and white and the dark brown painted wares from the Yung-ho kilns near Chi-cho, which do not appear to date before the beginning of the fourteenth century. The ogival panel, with double or triple outline, is another motif the transmission of which is found to be from north to south, though the introduction of this motif at Ching-te Clien may have been direct from Islam with the appearance of cobalt blue. On the other hand the moniliform border or beading line seen on the jar, is a uniquely southern element of decoration, which is first found on the Buddhist Bodhisattva figures of ch’ing-pai type, as part of the jewelled ornamentation and taken over later as a relief decoration on vases, jars, cups and plates, and which does not appear at all on any of the wares that can be attributed to the northern kilns.
The dating of Yuan ceramics presents unusual difficulties with regard to some of the northern wares, mainly on account of the long persistence of certain decorative elements such as the two already mentioned. This combined with the naturally conservative attitude of the potters in this area towards changes in form, makes it particularly hazardous to attempt attributions within narrow limits. For such wares as Chun and the Northern CeLadon there are also problems in connection with local style, but some of these have at least been partially resolved by recent archaeological work carried out by the Chinese, numerous reports of which have been published in the last dozen or so years. “The southern wares, of which there is a great variety, are in some respects easier to deal with, especially in the fourteenth century. The large body of material available, especially of blue and white and celadon, makes the possibility of closer dating than hitherto a practical one, the more so as a few dated pieces give us a number of points d’appui. It is also fortunate that in the fourteenth century the expanding market, combined with a more adventurous spirit than that revealed in the north, brought about comparatively rapid changes in forms and styles, together with changes in technique.
The evolution of form and style in the Yuan period is of exceptional interest, serving as it does to reflect the liveliness in character of the craft and the adaptability of the industry under organized commercial direction. Like the sleeper awakening, the Chinese potter seems to be stretching himself, reaching out to exploit anew the potentiality of his material, expressing himself with spontaneity and a strength which had perhaps begun to fail a little in the Southern Sung period. While much of the elegance and refinement of form and the restrained treatment of surface was abandoned, perhaps to a collector’s eye regrettably, there was a compensating factor to be found in the robust, vigorously handled forms and a flexibility in the approach to decoration in both technique and style. A period of frank experiment, breaking completely with the traditional Sung canon of taste, is followed shortly before the middle of the fourteenth century by the acceptance of only some of the techniques and styles in which the craftsmen had been trying out effects. What was accepted was refined until the elements became stabilized into what Pope has referred to as ‘fourteenth century style’. This is revealed in the painted wares with their splendour and complexity, in the apparently arbitrary placing of contrasting motifs, and with what seems superficially to be a total disregard of the natural contours of the vessel.3 We see this well in such massive pieces as the wine jars, and in the mei-p’ing vases.
One of the most puzzling features of Chinese art that from time to time comes to the surface, is the tendency not only to divide the surface up into a series of horizontal bands without regard for contour, but also to combine a series of wholly unrelated and indeed often rhythmically opposed elements in such a way that the visual harmony is not disrupted. There are of course exceptions such as may be seen on a number of rather small pieces, most of them dating from what has been regarded as an early stage in the development of blue and white . The main reason why this almost capricious treatment does not strike a jarring note, except in such a case as for instance the TzhVchou piece on Plate 97, seems to be the extraordinary sensitivity of the Chinese artistic mind to the nice adjustment of proportions of the parts in relation not only to each other, but also to the whole on a particular surface and in a particular medium. A secondary reason is probably the unfaltering control of line, in both form and decoration it has a fluency and elasticity that is immediately either exciting or soothing and which has a rhythm and vitality that hinds the designs together with an irresistible dynamic strength. The assurance with which the Chinese potter approaches problems of form and design is what really singles him out as being among the greatest of creative artists. In the Yuan period he achieves in his own medium a power in the handling of form and in the enrichment of surface, such as the T‘ang silverworker alone had achieved before him. The influence, both direct arid indirect, of the Yuan potter has never been fully understood or appreciated, but we can be in no doubt as to the magnificence and integrity of his achievements, open-minded as he was to all the possibilities and self-assured in his handling of the material.
THE WHITE WARES OK JAO-CHOU
It is not possible fully to appreciate the aesthetic and technical revolution that took place in the white wares in the course of the Yuan dynasty without recalling the traditions of the Sung dynasty, with their emphasis on restraint in form and decoration, and the refinement of finish that appears endemic to the whole of Sung production. The changes that occurred in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries are more strikingly seen in the porcelain of Jao-c-hou in the province of Kiangsi than in any of the wares from Chi-chou farther south, or from T£-hua in Fukien, where the kilns were farther removed from the main centre of patronage in Hang-chou. After the transfer of the Sung capital from K‘ai-fdng in the north to Hang-chou in northern Chekiang in 1128, there was inevitably an increase in the patronage of the southern kilns, and with them especially those of tbe Jao-chou area, which had long been producing high quality ceramics.1 As a natural consequence of this change certain northern characteristics are to be found in the products of this important area, and the potters of Jao-chou at first drew heavily on the repertory of forms and decorations as well as on techniques which had at first been developed in the north, particularly at the Ting group of kilns.
During Sung times there was a unity of form, and a unity of decorationj the techniques, too, seem to have been fairly uniform among the white wares, carving, incising and moulding being common to the north, moulding having been introduced only after the other techniques had been thoroughly mastered. These techniques gradually filtered through to the south, moulding, as in the north, coming rather later into the range of decorative techniques employed. The carved decorations of ch’irtg-pai, associated with the south, give an immediate impression of an artistic climate held in common with Ting and certain groups of Northern Celadon, which reflects the refinement of taste associated almost axiomatically with the restrained, and often introspective attitude of the age. Jao-chou, as the focal area of the south for the production of ch‘ing-pai, shows this very clearly in so far as it is possible to trace wares back to this region. Assumptions must necessarily be made here, since archaeological evidence is not readily accessible. At the present time it is reasonable to accept the tradition that Jao-chou, which had first come into production in the T’ang dynasty, though somewhat intermittently, began to develop a clearly defined range of white porcelains during the Sung, the potters, however, seeming only to have worked at times when the demands of agriculture were not too exacting, or when the season was bad. Chiang Ch‘i in T‘ao-ch‘i liieh, quoting an earlier text now lost, infers that tlie local population turned to pottery making in the had seasons in order to maintain a bearable standard of living. It would be natural under this kind of economic pressure for an area so rich in the resources essential to the craft to develop rapidly during the twelfth century, when the centre of patronage moved south and brought the region within the field of its influence. The value of this stimulus combined with the wealth of experience among the potters and the easily accessible materials can hardly be doubted.
Although Jao-chou was a well-established centre of production, it seems only to have been in about the beginning of the thirteenth century, if we accept Chiang Chi’s comments, that a deliberate policy of industrialization was initiated. In this it would seem that the merchants, gathered together in syndicates, provided the necessary capital to finance a high level of production, arranged transport and the distribution of the output over a large area, and handled the sales for the export trade, which at this time was being encouraged by the government for economic reasons.
The Sung taste for elegant simple forms and fluent welL-balanced floral decorations carved into the body before glazing persisted for a time in the Yuan period, as did the liking for a seemingly frail translucent body carefully turned. It was surprising that the pieces retained their shape through the firing. During the Yuan period this frail elegance gave way to a heavier type of construction, and a more robust treatment was preferred in every respect. The main types of ware produced during the period were the ch’ing-pai and the so-called Shu-fu, with mid-way between the two a somewhat variable group oi porcelains, which are best described as transitional white wares. These last and the Shu-fu both stem from the more deeply-rooted chling-pai, and the relationships between all three are close, with some developments running parallel. It is necessary to bear in mind that a large number of kilns were in operation in the late thirteenth century, and that because archaeological evidence on specific kilns is extremely meagre, it is only possible to refer to types in broad terms. Among the kilns known to have produced cfcing-pai, however, are Hu-then, Nari-shan and Hsiang-huj the two former also produced blue and white.1 There were probably many more kilns involved, and the transitional white wares mav have come from any one of these. It is also of particular importance to notice that with only one exception so far, tomb fi nds of chLing-pai are confined to the more southerly regions of China, and with that one exception none north of Anhui, the bulk of the finds being from Kiangsi itself, Chekiang, Hupei and Hunan. Apart from these finds the most considerable body of material of this type has been found in south-east Asia, Indonesia, Fostat in Egypt, ami quite recently from new archaeological sites of great interest and importance in the Philippines. The porcelains of this type that we now attribute to the Yuan period are often larger, nearly always slightly heavier, thicker near the base, with the foot-ring more roughly cut, and with a glaze often more blue in tone than is usual on the finer pieces of the earlier periods. The incised decoration, while stylistically imitating that of the northern ware, shows a tendency towards heaviness of outline, and the use of heavier and more emphatic combing than is found on the earlier Ting wares of the Northern Sung period and the period of the Chin dynasty in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In addition the glaze, which as already pointed out may be more blue in tone, seems often to be rather thin near the rim of the bowls and displays imperfections of surface, usually as pitting and ferruginous staining, that are rare in those pieces generally assigned to the Sung dynasty. It was probably towards the end of the twelfth and during the early years of the thirteenth century that the practice in the south of firing bowls upside down on the rim was introduced, in imitation of Ting with its unglazed rim. Although the technique, often with rather a wide unglazed band at the rirn, continued well into the fourteenth century’ on some types of ch’ing-pai, it was gradually abandoned as new styles and forms began to appear and gain popularity. Many of the pieces with the wide unglazed area at Lhe rim seem to have been bound with silver, and occasionally one encounters examples on which fragments of such a band still survive. An additional reason for giving up the practice of firing bowls on the rim may have been that it was discovered that the rather non-plastic body of true poreclain was less liable to warping and collapse at high temperaLures than the semi-porcelain of Ting type. Another process that became common early in the thirteenth century was moulding, again an introduction from the north, and one of fundamental importance to Lhe industrial development of the southern kilns, since the technique opened the way for a complex series of mass-production methods, that were to enable the kilns to maintain a steady output in the face of increasingly urgent demands for porcelain both at home and overseas.
In order to comprehend the course of the evolution of these porcelains it is essential to define the types that are involved in the following discussion. First there is ch’ing-pai, a characteristic white porcelain generally associated with the Sung period, but which we now know continued well into the fourteenth century. The body, very white and fine grained, with a glassy fracture, is covered with a transparent glaze faintly tinged with blue or green. The glaze is applied over a plain surface, or an incised and carved decoration, or over a moulded design. The foot-ring is usually thin and low, and if the piece has been fired on the rim, the glaze covers the foot-ring. The type is easily distinguished also by the thinness of the body and by the high gloss of the glaze. The second porcelain is that to which the name Shu-fu has been attached; the name is usually interpreted ‘Privy Council’ and is associated with the ware believed to have been made for the imperial Yuan household. It is very much thicker and heavier in body than ch’ing-pai, and much more consistent in the form of the foot-ring, which is thicker and square cut; the decoration is always moulded on the inside, but sometimes with incised ornament on the outside, and the gla/.e is thick and often opaque and matt, being tinged with faint blue nr grey. Between these two easily distinguished extremes, the chling-pai, thin, light in weight and clear in glaze, and the Shu-fu, thick, heavy and often opaque in glaze, is a considerable group of porcelains, which for convenience may be termed transitional while wares. Tliis large body of material is variable in the quality of both body and glaze, in weight in relation to size and shape, ami in the cutting of the foot-ring. Some pieces are nearer to chling-pai and others incline towards Shu-fu, sometimes one characteristic being dominant and sometimes another. In spite of the difficulties presented by this third group the main lines along which the white wares developed in the late thirteenth century and early fourteenth century towards a distinctive Yuan style can be described, but only in rather general terms owing to the lack of precisely dated material. One point that emerges from the study of such material as is available, is that the sensitive handling of form and the rather delicate treatment of surface, as represented by the bowl with lightly dotted combing such as those discussed and illustrated by Wirgin, soon proved to be unacceptable to the changing taste of the late thirteenth century. The heavier, more robust forms, already mentioned, began quite rapidly to replace the refined types of the Sung tradition, partly perhaps as the result of the widening market both at home and abroad. What was lost in refinement and perfection of finish, however, was more than equalled by the new strength and ebullience of form, and the spontaneity of the decoration.
In bowls, saucers and small boxes many of the old habits both in technique and decoration were retained, the pieces in many cases continuing the traditional patterns, but often the quality of the craftsmanship declined under the pressure of demand. The increasing demands may haye been an important factor in forcing the change towards stronger and heavier pieces in which the slow, highly skilled process of turning was reduced to a minimum. The demand for greater quantities undoubtedly put pressure on the potters to develop techniques which would simplify production and make it possible to meet demands by using relatively unskilled labour, and it is likely to have been this need that accounted for the increasing use of moulds. Mould-made bowls, fired on the rim, and small boxes similarly constructed, show a marked increase in numbers towards the end of the thirteenth century, most of them using designs that at first derive from the northern tradition, with decorations at least on the bowls that continue the type of decoration in which birds and flowers are disposed so as to encircle and revolve around a central motif, while at the rim is a key-fret border. In these is found another feature indicative of a changing approach, for the designs while retaining the basic themes of Ting in the north, are more heavily treated, and at the same time the key-fret loses its precision, often being executed in a sketchy manner that suggests a misinterpretation of the motif, or, more likely an unconscious groping towards a new theme. It was not long before other decorations began to appear that were at variance with previously accepted conceptions of good design. The revolving decoration on bowls was gradually replaced by a com-partmented scheme, or by a scheme built up on a series of concentric zones. The new approach broke down the old continuous rhythm and replaced it with a series of panels, usually six, each having its own decoration, sometimes only remotely related to that in the adjacent panel, and the whole only making a coherent scheme on the basis of the proportion of the parts to each other and to the whole. An. example of this unusual approach to design in chiing-pai is seen in a bowl in the Ashmolean Museum. This type has usually been pressed out yery thinly, and occasionally added force is given to the panelling by notching the rim to suggest lobes; such an artificial device is probably no more than the survival of an old convention. In ways such as these the transition is made from an old style to a new and in some respects more lively one.
The technique of moulding was not. confined to bowls and saucers, but was also particularly common in the manufacture of boxes and small jars. Boxes, either of simple cylindrical or multi-lobed cylindrical form dependent upon silver prototypes could be pressed out rapidly and accurately iri large numbers without the need for any remarkable skill.1 The decorations on the tops of these boxes are very varied, and there are many close parallels with metalwork, such as those found among the excavated material at Torder is almost invariably of petal panels, and the upper one of triangular motifs or stiff leaves rising up the neck of a bottle; but on the shoulder of a jar or mei-piing a more or less formalized lotus scroll winds round to replace the limiting angular motif. The central band, generally freely and vigorously cut is often of a three-clawed dragon on a tersely hatched ground, a pair of phoenixes or a lotus scroll. The base is usually quite roughly finished, the glaze only partly covering it, and a small amount of grit may adhere to the carelessly knife-trimmed foot-ring. A feature of the bottle vases, which suggests that they were all produced at one kiln, and perhaps over a relatively short period, is the weight in relation to size. They are nearly all exceptionally light in weight, while the mei-p’ing and the jars are much heavier, yet both in some instances carry the same decoration. The Boston mci-p’ing and the Toronto bottle vase (Plate 3) demonstrate this point exceptionally clearly. This group, and its close relatives, would seem to date from the first two decades of the fourteenth century and may have begun shortly before the turn of the century. They constitute the main link between the final stages of the Sung style and the first fully developed stage of the Yuan style in the fourteenth century. There are examples, certainly not many, in which additional techniques—somewhat strange in the context—are employed.
The first supplementary technique is the use of beaded relief elements, and the second is that of cutting away panels on the surface of the body and then filling them with moulded reliefs plugged into place with small lumps of clay. The classic example of this is the Fonlhill vase now in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, which Arthur Lane dated to the first quarter of the fourteenth century. This vase is of very great importance in the history of ceramics as a whole and especially in the history of collecting in Europe, because it is the earliest piece of Chinese porcelain to be recorded in Europe. It was so obviously valued that it was not only provided with silver gilt and enamelled mounts, now missing, which transformed it into a ewer, but was esteemed worthy for presentation in or soon after 1381 to Charles III of Durazzo by Louis the Great of Hungary following the former’s successful invasion and possession of the Kingdom of Naples subsequently to be crowned king by the Pope, Urban VI. The inscriptions and the mount with its heraldic achievements, winch were recorded by Gagnicres in a coloured drawing datable to c. 1713 and are fully discussed by Lane who believed the mounts to be of German craftsmanship. When the mounts were lost is not precisely known, except that it must have been after 1822, when William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey had to sell his property in order to pay his debts; the mounts are mentioned in the sale catalogue and in contemporary documents. This astonishing pear-shaped vase with spreading mouth, a fairly common form, as we have already seen, had carved and incised decoration similar to that of the Toronto vase , but with a lotus scroll filling the central band. The decoration, however, goes far beyond this and the final result constitutes one of those ludicrous and elaborate experimental pieces which turn up at intervals all through the history of Chinese ceramic art.
The lour lobed panels are cut into the body round the main band of carved decoration and in total disregard of the carved lotus scroll.
Into the panels are set floral reliefs which have been pressed out in moulds and secured with plugs of clay at the back to the thin inner wall of Lbe vase. As though this were insufficient as a display of the inappropriate, beaded relief bands and curlicues have similarly been added to the surface, with the same disregard for the existing carved and incised decoration. Nor is this the only example of the experimental ism of the time. Other examples are the vase with gilt mounts in the Victoria and Albert Museum1, and there is a third one i n the British Museum; both of these are cut down. The bottle in the Victoria and Albert Museum differs from the others in that the body is octagonal in horizontal cross-section, a form that has close ! connections with Near Eastern metalworking as well as with the native tradition in blue and white.
This experimentalism is extended at the same time in another ^direction which is equally remarkable, but which causes less of a shook to the sensibilities. During the early fourteenth century for instance there arc stem-cups and bowls, many of them of stoutly moulded form, on which panels have been formed using the relief heading technique. Some of these panels vary in shape and size and hence in their appropriateness to the form of the vessel. They are sometimes given extra adornment by adding small relief elements in the panels.
‘The stem-cup in the City Art Gallery at Bristol is an excellent example of this, with its small figures applied to each panel on the outside. The heading on this cup continues into the inside and terminates in the centre under an applied relief prurius blossom, like that in the centre of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s splendid cup with its freely modelled dragon handle.
Other examples take this development a stage farther. In the Brundage Collection in San Francisco is a pair of vases in stands. These vases are of mei~pluig form with somewhat elongated necks; the paired arrangement of the beaded relief panels alternates with applied slip decoration of lotus spra)rs alternating with phoenixes round the walls. The slip appears to have been roughly applied to conform broadly in outline with the proposed elements, anil has then been tidied up with some careful tool work. The most elaborate and splendid example of this unusual style is the ewer at present on loan to the Chicago Art Institute. This fine specimen is of excellent quality of body and glaze, and the execution of the complex design is probably unsurpassed. The petal panels round the lower section of the body are. not in this case carved, but laid on in slip 1 Formerly lu the collection of Baroness Cassel van Doom. which has been exceptionally well controlled in the ornamental treatment of the inner part. Slip has also been used for the bold phoenix decoration un the upper pait of the body, and here the careful totaling of the edges and the incising of the details on the birds can be clearly seen. The boldly modelled scaly dragon handle and base of the spout, both in fact mould constructed, indicate a highly developed technique of moulding and great shill in the modelling of the details. Tying the spout to the neck is a well-shaped S-curve link, a feature which is fairly common at this time and may be found on temple vases like a small one in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, on which they serve as handles. Round the neck of the ewer is an angular meander of finely beaded relief. This meander ornament is common on a number of wares during the late thirteenth and all through the fourteenth century, and it serves to press home the close connection at this period between metalwork, from which it mainly derives, and ceramics.1 The decoration of the neck, again in carefully controlled slip designs, appears once more to demonstrate a feature common in the period, of combining unrelated elements on the same surface. The cover, surmounted by a lion with one fore-paw raised to rest on a beribboned ball, may possibly be a later replacement. The character of both body and glaz.c differs noticeably from that of the ewer itself, although the animal in some respects is very close to the example, albeit of much larger size, on a pedestal in the Ashmolean Museum (Plate 11). The Ashmolean lion, evidently one of a pair, is likely to have been part of a set of Buddhist figures for a family altar or small shrine.
This brings us directly to the source of the peculiar pearl beading in relief as a part of the decoration. We are fortunate in being able to refer to the massive Buddhist figure in the Nelson Gallery’ in Kansas City, which is dated to either 1298 or 1299 (Plate 12). The figure, a Bodhisattva, is one of a number nowr known on which beading in relief has been used to represent the traditional necklaces and bracelets with which these saintly personages are usually adorned.1 2 The application of sculptural concepts to ceramic figures of this size, 51’4 cm. in height, set the potters a number of problems, the chief of which is one of construction. The figure in this case is hollow, as one might expect, the body being of ch’ing-pai type, although the glaze has the marked tendency to opacity that qualifies the piece as an example of the transitional type. Damaged and imperfect in accomplishment, it nevertheless marks an interesting departure from the traditional materials of Buddhist sculpture and is an exciting new use of porcelain. In interpretation the figure follows very closely similar figures in bronze and in painted wood, and it fulfils its religious purpose at least as well. Other examples, more accomplished than this, are the Dresden figure first published by Ernst Zimmer-mann, and those in the Rietberg and Metropolitan Museum discussed by John Ayers at the Brundage Symposium on Oriental Art in 1966. Most of the best-known figures are large, about 46 or 51 cm. in height, though some are now so badly damaged that the original size can only be guessed at on the basis of the proportions of the parts that remain. A number of smaller figures are beginning to come to light, one good example of about 25 cm. having recently been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a very pleasing specimen, the details of the beading and relief ornament having been handled with restraint and care. The most elaborate, and perhaps the latest in the series on account of certain features in the upper part of the robe, is the figure tentatively identified as Manjusri in the Metropolitan Museum. The left hand is a rather poor restoration, but in other respects the figure is complete and almost undamaged. In construction, it is like the Kansas figure in being hollow’, and it has a strong central partition running up from the open roughly finished base; this partitioning sLrut serves to carry the considerable weight of the head and shoulders, while permitting adequate ventilation for the firing. The body material and the glaze, with its slightly matt appearance and bluish tone, brings this piece very close to the Shu-fu type, but like the Kansas figure it is probably best regarded as transitional white ware. The beading, much finer than on the other large figures, is exceptionally elaborate, so too is the robe with its ‘cloud collar’-like lappets falling from the shoulders, dowm each arm and on the chest just beneath the raised left hand. ‘Cloud collar’ elements were to play an important part in the decoration of blue and white and copper red wares, but this is so far the only example of the use of this motif on any other ceramics in the period.YttAN PORCELAIN AND STONEWARE
mouth-rim, a feature that is especially characteristic of Shu-fu wares, and is also a feature noted by Sung Mang-chou in his note on a white saucer with moulded decoration of the Eight Buddhist Emblems with a moulded inscription of the name of the shrine for which it was made.1 This specimen, now in the Palace Museum in Peking is dated by Sung on literary and historical evidence after 1328, the date when the sacrificial office, the name of which is inscribed on the piece, was established. The dish discussed by Sung is interesting because he states that in fifty years’ experience he has only been able to record three examples of this type, all of the same size and almost certainly all from the same mould. Of the other two, one was handed to Peking University and the other, according to him, has disappeared. It seems more than likely, however, that the third example is the one recently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Plates IS A, B). If this is the case, we have in this piece a type later in date than the David Foundation one and different in glaze in as much as this is thicker, more opaque and very white and glassy.
From this point on, white wares seem to liave developed in two distinctly different ways. In one direction the move was towards a rather well-finished relatively thin type with moulded decoration, sometimes with incising, and usually with a glazed base and a narrow well-trimrned foot-ring, of which the Ashmolcan dish is representative (Plates 16a, b). And in the other direction the move was tow arris a bold strong form with unglazed base and square-cut foot-ririg of comparatively small diameter, and a true Shu-fu glaze, thick and opaque, tending to bluish tone (Plates 1 8a, b).
Belonging to the first type, the Ashmolean Museum dish displays the special qualities to be associated with this slightly divergent type. Round the sides is a chrysanthemum scroll with four flowers, two each of different kinds, and in the centre is a single incised lotus flower on a curving stem. Like the T‘ien-shun dish this one shows ferruginous impurities in the white slightly opaque glaze, which thickens a little in places round the outside of the rim. The base is carefully treated so that the glaze reaches half-way down the inner side of the foot-ring. The style of the decoration and the quality of the glaze bears a close resemblance to a number of blue and white stem-cups, with similar decoration inside, and so should perhaps be dated to the second quarter of the fourteenth century. The dish is technically more advanced than the 1328 one in that the glaze is better controlled and the body somewhat cleaner. The same comment can probably be made of the extremely sophisticated plate with flattened foliate rim and moulded decoration of two dragons chasing pearls, which was found together with another foliate rimmed vessel, a bowl, and some blue and white pieces in the Pao-ting hoard in 1964 from llopei1.This remarkable find at first sight ought to help a great deal towards dating the fourteenth-century wares, but unfortunately it was only a hoard, cached away without any material in other media.There were no associations and so no firm conclusions to he drawn beyond the likelihood that none of the blue and white, on the basis of our present chronology, was later than about 1560, and that some of it would seem to belong to the second quarter of the century. With this in mind, the plate, together with the mechanical handling of the form, may date from anywhere within this period from 1330 to 1360.
The inclination is to place it very shortly before the middle of the century, on account of the dragons which resemble those on the inside of the blue and white stem-cups, generally accepted as belonging to the earlier stratum of blue and white, and thus before 1351, the first landmark in the development of the blue and white.
The Shu-fu wares, allied to the transitional white type and probably were developing from them, perhaps not much before the middle of the fourteenth century, are stoutly made and generally well-finished, with a very squarely cut rather thick foot-ring. The base, usually though not invariably unglazed, often comes to a slight nipple-like point at the centre, The forms are limited in their range, but always with a foot-ring the diameter of which is rather small in proportion to the whole in both height and diameter. The bowls are of two types, one with rounded sides and everted rim and the other with almost straight slightly flaring sides, contracted at a sharp angle to the small foot. Both types have moulded floral decoration round the wall and may have the double vajra, or thunderbolt, in the centre. Some examples have the two characters shu and fu written in slip facing each other across the centre from their place on the inner wall, but these characters on such bowls may often be omitted. The characters when they appear are often applied quite arbitrarily and without regard to the decoration, cutting across it so as to disfigure it and break the rhythm of the flower scroll. On both these types of howl the outside is plain.
Apart from these pieces, there is a large series of bowls, much more varied in size, but still rather limited in decoration. They fall broadly into two groups, those with straight rim and those with slightly everted rim. Many, like the saucers, are decorated with stylized lotus scroll in moulded relief. Others also with moulded decoration, have geese in flight among clouds, bordered above by a narrow wave band. The pattern of waves is sometimes rather imperfectly accepted from the mould, and is perhaps an indication either of poor craftsmanship or a lack of plasticity in the porcelain clay. All the larger bowls carry the characters shu and fu in slip, and some of them have incised petal panels on the outside radiali ng from the foot-ring, which as with the saucers is rather thick. This large group of bowls is always strongly constructed, and those with the incised petal panels seem to belong to the later years of the fourteenth century, continuing into the early part of the Ming dynasty, for they link up with howls of similar size and shape, and in general characteristics of body and glaze, that are moulded on the inside with a design of chrysanthemum petals arranged in concentric bands. Forms other than these bowl and saucer shapes are much less common, but a number of small tripods, based on bronze forms, Like that in the Eugene Bernat Collection turn up occasionally. There are too a few spouted bowls, one of exceptionally fine quality being in the Malcolm Collection, on the inside of which there was once a gilt dragon. The spouted bowls, however, are better known with underglaze blue or copper red decoration, and w ith a body closer in type to ch’ing-pai.
The body and glaze characteristics of the whole of this type of ware which we term Shu-fu are remarkably consistent. The well-levigated body is very dense, fine-grained and white, usually burning slightly orange where it is exposed, especially along the line where the glaze ends on the outside of the foot-ring. The glaze, moderately thick, is noticeably more opaque than the transitional white type, and is very often matt in appearance. The colour varies with a bluish or greenish tinge, and in a few cases may even incline to greyj this is mainly a firing variation and is not a fundamental difference that has to be distinguished. One constant feature, already mentioned in connection with the T‘ien-shun dish, is the tendency for the glaze to thicken in a slight welt on either side of the mouth rim; sometimes the glaze may run down from the rim more thickly in one or two places. A handsome and justly admired ware, the date of its introduction still evades us, as does the real meaning of the term Shu-fu, and in its turn the date of its transformation into the Ming tradition. The earliest recorded use of the term in connection with ceramic ware occurs in the Ko-ku yao-lun, an antiquarian handbook by Ts’ao Chao, with a preface dated 1588. Whether research in the future will reveal an earlier use of the term remains to be seen, or even the real meaning of the term in relation to porcelain; it only occurs on while wares. The Shu-fu type used always to be thought to have been confined to the Chinese mainland, but this has now been shown to be untrue. Some nice examples of smaller bowls and dishes have recently been recovered from excavations in the Philippines, and although none of these has so far borne the two distinguishing characters, a few have been of the highest quality. The possibility that the Chinese sold off wasters inevitably comes to mind. Some of the pieces, however, display features that associate them more with the transitional type, and one would perhaps classify them as such were it not for the method of construction and the style of the decoration. The Philippine finds include a considerable range of jars, or jarlets, as they are appropriately called on account of their small size. These are usually rounded globular objects, or slightly elongated into a dumpy ovoid form, sometimes fluted, sometimes decorated with beaded relief -y most are constructed in two or three parts, each moulded and then luted together. Many have small cylindrical loops .at the junction of the shoulder and neck. The body material is varied, some of it falling neatly into the ch’irtg-pai category, some transitional in type and some closer to Lhe Shu-fu in its fineness and density, and it often burns a pale orange tone where it is exposed in the firing. The glaze may be thin, translucent and slightly blue in tone, as is characteristic of the chlmg-pai, or it may be thicker and opaque, and sometimes even have a matt surface like the general run of Shu-fu. Because of these wide variations in the character of the wares, dating is particularly difficult to determine. It may also be that a number of different kilns were involved in producing a range of white wares and that they continued in operation for the general market over a long period with little or no change of form because the mass-production techniques by their very nature tended to discourage it. A similar confusing situation is to be found when we turn to other white wares of a more popular character, wares that include a complex series of ewers, of which the double gourd form and the roughly pear-shaped ewer of rectangular cross section are the most common. The gourd ewers, of which fairly large numbers have been found in the Philippines in recent years, are built up of four roughly hemispherical parts luted together one ori top of another, with a spout added on one side and either a simple strap handle, or a freely modelled dragon handle on the other. These have not so far been found with applied or moulded decoration, but they do include a number of iron-spotted examples as well as some with either underglaze blue or copper red decoration.
The second type, also found in. the Philippines, is of rectangular cross section. This is a more complicated type in that the surfaces all carry moulded decoration, which is at its most splendid on the two larger surfaces between the spout and handle. Such ewers arc luted together vertically up the short sides, the joint being largely camouflaged by the attachment of the spout and handle. The larger side, as in the example illustrated, is characteristically decorated with a major field, in this case composed of an elaborate multi-lobed panel composed of trefoil elements, enclosing a naturalistic design, and bordered above and below by narrow horizontal scrolling bands, a concept of surface and its organization common throughout the fourteenth century and found at every level of production. There is also a third type of ewer, again found in the Philippines, which is round and dumpy like a sauce pot, with a short curving spout. This is luted together horizontally in two main parts with little attempt to conceal the join, indeed it is almost emphasized in the example from the Locsin Collection by the attractive rather sharply defined leafy scroll running round both upper and lower parts.
A technical point of some interest is that nearly all these small pieces, whatever their shape, are, if made in moulds, taken from them without any trimming up. This is especially to be noticed in the base and foot, the inner wall of which is a little rough with no indication of any attempt at neat finishing. This is the case with the ewer. If there is only a vestige of a foot-ring, as occasionally happens, it is a feature included in the mould and there is never any sign of subsequent tooling. The same practice seems to have been followed at other kilns producing similar shaped wares, such as those making Lung-chdiian type celadons and those in Fukien making white wares.
In describing the white porcelains of Jao-chou in the Yuan period from the late thirteenth century to the end of the fourteenth century the main problem is, and is likely to remain, that of the variety of bodies and glazes. The likelihood of the earlier types with lightweight bodies and translucent glazes surviving all through the period and even into the early years of the Ming dynasty cannot be wholly discounted it is extremely probable, especially at outlying kilns engaged on production for the less demanding sectors of the market, and even the export market. Until much more archaeological evidence is available upon which to base closer dating, our conceptions of the chronology of the white wares must to a large extent remain somewhat speculative, but the broad pattern that leads on into the fifteenth century is nevertheless clearly to be discerned.
More Yuan Porcelain UNDERGLAZE RLUE AND COPPER RED DECORATED WARES