|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
( Originally Published 1922 )
UNTIL recently the ware made at Ju Chou in Honan, though well known from literary references, could only be imagined. Even now we have no authenticated specimen to which we can point and state that it was the product of this famous factory, founded in the Sung dynasty by Imperial order.
The chief literary references to Ju ware are the following. The Ko-ku yao-lun (a fourteenthcentury work) speaks of it as a porcelain with a pale green or blue glaze with or without crackle, and with a paste which is thin and has a rich lustre. The Po-wu yao-lan (a seventeenthcentury work) describes the glaze as white in colour as the fluid white of an egg and as rich as a film of fat. The same work says that in the glaze there are pores as in cones barely disclosing themselves and resembling crab claws. At the bottom there are tracings of sesamum finely chiselled. The Liu-ch'ingyih-cha (compiled by a Ming writer) speaks of the ware as resembling Ko porcelain in colour but with a slight yellowish tinge. This work also states that similar ware was made at Tang Chou, Teng Chou and Yao Chou. The two first-mentioned towns are in Honan and the last in Shensi.
In the T'ao Shuo,where the foregoing references are included, there is the statement that the glaze was made with powdered cornelian. This is not the only reference to this stone in the Tao Shuo ; it is also mentioned in connexion with the production of the famous red of the Hsuan Te period (1426-1435). Cornelian consists largely of silica, the presence of which in large quantities would produce a glaze requiring a high temperature to melt it.The statement would therefore point to the fact that the Ju type of glaze was one of the high-fired glazes commonly found in the Sung wares and would be associated with a body of a highly porcellanous nature.
Another reference in ancient literature which it is important to note is the statement of one, Hsu Ching, who went to Corea with the Chinese embassy in 1125, and who, among his other occupations, wrote a description of the local ceramic wares. Hsu Ching likens some of the Corean wares to the "new Ju Chou ware." The Corean wares of this period are fairly familiar and most of them are of a celadon nature. They vary from grey-green to a bluish celadon, and some are very pale, almost white in colour with a tinge of blue or green.
All this rather heterogeneous evidence from Chinese literature may perhaps be summarised thus : the Ju ware was thinly potted with a fine porcellanous body fired at a high temperature. The glaze was a siliceous one maturing at a high temperature with a lard-like appearance and greenish or bluish in colour; sometimes it was crackled. In addition to being made at Ju Chou in Honan, a similar type of ware was produced at two other factories in Honan, at one in Shensi and at factories in Corea.
In Hsiang's Album there are specimens illustrated which are attributed to the Ju Chou factory. The first is a trumpet-shaped vase engraved with palm leaves and scrolled design, and covered with a bluish-green glaze. Hsiang says it was bought for about £5o by a general in the Emperor's body-guard. The second is a beaker-shaped vase with a bluish uncrackled glaze and was the possession of another high Chinese official. The third is a most wonderfully elaborate wine-ewer in the shape of a duck. The glaze is also represented as bluish-green, but in this case it is crackled.
Having marshalled our literary data for what it is worth, we must see whether there is an early type of ware which accords at all with these descriptions. There is always a danger in making a favourite theory fit in with facts, unconsciously arranged for the purpose. The theory advanced below must be accepted with reserve, but is generally recognised now to be worthy of tentative acceptance.
In the last few years a not inconsiderable number of specimens has been imported into this country from China styled ying ch'ing ware. This expression signifies a ware with a misty or shadowy blue (or green) glaze.
The body, which varies in thickness considerably, is fine porcelain: in colour the paste ranges from a yellowish orange colour (showing the presence of iron) to a white colour. The porcelain on fracture shows a white sugary appearance. In the thinnest examples the body is highly translucent, and even in the thicker types some translucency may be observed. The porcelain is finer than in any of the Sung wares with which we are at present familiar. It is a shallow conical bowl with lightly moulded sides and mouth-rim cut in six foliations. The porcelain body is of egg-shell thinness and the glaze is white with a faint tinge of blue.
The ying ch'ing glaze is a high-fired felspathic one which varies in colour from being almost colourless (showing white against the porcelain of the body) to a distinct light blue. Where the glaze has run thick or accumulated at indentations of the body or over incised decoration, the colour is bluish or greenish, even when the glaze on the other parts of the vessel appears white. There is no reason to presume that this colour is due to anything but iron, or any necessity to surmise the addition of other colouring material.
This ying ch'ing ware is found in many shapes. Bowls and saucers are perhaps the commonest form, but vases and ewers are by no means rare.
More varied still are the types of body. Some are quite thick, while in the finest examples the ware is almost as thin as vellum. The decoration consists of floral or animal designs incised in the paste in typical Sung fashion, or moulded in relief in a manner reminiscent of some of the Ting yao. Very occasionally the glaze is spotted with brown derived from ferric oxide, like the tobi seiji or spotted celadon, In other specimens, and these are some of the most beautiful, fine potting and delicacy of shape constitute their claim for appreciation.
Very often the bowls have been fired on their mouth-rims, upside down, and sometimes the raw rim is hidden by a metal collar as is so often the case in the Ting yao.
Specimens, which have recently been imported, are said to have been dug up from tombs in Honan; some have been found in Corea; while others have been discovered in a buried city at Kuluhsien in Chihli. A few of the choicest examples are reported to have been obtained from private Chinese collections.
The question then arises whether this ying ch'ing ware can be said to be of the Ju type. It is understood that certain Chinese connoisseurs hold this view and, while the reader is left to form his own opinion, there is strong probability that some connexion exists between the two. There is nothing diametrically opposed between the literary description and the best of the specimens we have seen. Evidence exists that several factories in China and Corea produced types of ware similar to that of Ju Chou, and the examples to hand vary greatly in quality and technique and come from widely different localities. But the strongest evidence of all, in the view of many students, is the absence of any account in Chinese literature of a Sung ware of the quality of this ying ch'ing ware except in the description of Ju yao and its related wares. The opinion held by most ceramists at the present time is that the ying ch'ing ware is of the Ju type, but only the more optimistic of collectors label their specimens of the ware as Ju yao itself.
Related to the Ju yao is the Ch'ai yao. This ware is not named after the place of manufacture, which was apparently K'ai-feng Fu or at Cheng Chou, close to that town; but after the family name of the Emperor Shih Tsung in whose reign Ch'ai porcelain was first made (see p. 37). It is described " as blue as the sky after rain, as clear as a mirror, as thin as paper and as resonant as a musical stone of jade." It is also stated that the ware often had yellow clay at the foot. Probably this referred only to the yellow colour of the paste where exposed to the fire which would be accounted for by the presence of iron in the clay. Incidentally it may be noted that a number of ying ch'ing specimens have a yellowish foot-rim.