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Ewer, approx. 900–1000

Ewer, approx. 900–1000

Ewer, approx. 900–1000. China; Yue kilns, Zhejiang province. Five Dynasties period (906–960) or Song dynasty (960-1126). Glazed high-fired ceramic. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P373.

What is this object?
This object dats to the late Tang or Five Dynasties period, roughly the 800s–900s. This object is a pouring vessel with a greenish-grey glaze (what we popularly refer to as celadon) that comes from the southern yue kilns. It is an example of early porcelain or high-fired wares, and was produced for use by the living rather than for tomb burial.

How was this object made?
The greenish color on the yue ware is made by adding more iron to the glaze, and high-firing in an oxygen-reduced kiln atmosphere.

Why is this object important?
This object is among the earliest types of porcelains produced in China. It also exemplifies the tradition of greenish-grey wares, which often competed for marketplace and collector attention during the Tang (618-906) and Song (960-1126) dynasties. 

The greenish-grey yue ware was made in Zhejiang province (yue is the old name for Zhejiang region) near the coast not far from present day Hangzhou. This region is famous for producing the first proto-celadons (greenish-grey colored wares) during the eastern Jin dynasty, about a century before the Tang (618-906) dynasty. Green wares were compared to jade, and their name may have also reflected the more lush greenery of the eastern coastal regions. Yue kilns were probably the most sophisticated in the world at that time because of their ability to produce very high temperatures and reduction atmospheres. Yue potters are credited with the development of dragon kilns, long kilns built on the slopes of a hill. The success of yue wares probably inspired the production of northern celadons at the yaozhou kilns during the Northern Song (960–1279) dynasty. By the Southern Song dynasty, yue wares had declined. But they were exported in quantity, and their influence was particularly strong in Korea, where potters developed a unique Korean type of celadon during the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392).