Late Southern Song/early Yuan (2nd quarter to end of 13th Century) Longquan wares

Towards the end of mid Southern Song, Longquan potters introduced a new glaze composition and paste.  The traditional lime glaze was replaced by a lime-alkali glaze.  Lime-alkali glaze is high on viscosity and has a softer gloss.  To simulate the jade like effect, the thickness of the glaze is thickened by the technique of multiple glazing.   Many of the celadon pieces made during the Late Song to early Yuan pieces have multi-layer of glazes.  The porcelain stone used for the vessel is mixed with "zijin" (reddish purple) clay.  This new mixture enabled a high-quality thin and light body porcelain to be made. The general view is that the Longquan potters learnt and adopted the technology from the Southern Song Guan wares.  

So far, the earliest dated examples are two vases with bow string lines from the grave of Cheng Daya (程大雅) in Zhejiang Songyang (浙江松阳).  The grave is dated to 1st year of Qingyuan (庆元元年) ie A.D 1197.  The vases showed sign that two layers of glaze were applied. The vases are similar to the below example.  

Two types of high quality celadon were produced.  One has a thick glaze with white biscuit (with smaller amount of zijin clay", and the second a guan type thick glaze with thinner black biscuit (a higher amount of zijin clay used). The late Southern Song to early Yuan period was the golden period of Longquan celadon production.  The vessels are graceful, with fine and relatively thin potting.  The thick jade like glaze is of excellent quality  The soft powdery green (fenqing (粉青)) and the plum green (meizhiqing (梅子青)) represented the two most successful glaze which are much treasured by collectors.  Both types are fired under reduction firing atmosphere.  The plum green is fired at a higher temperature and has clear and transparent jade-green colour.  The fenqing is fired at a lower atmosphere and the glaze is less transparent and has a softer glow.  During the Southern Song and early Yuan phase, the fenging glaze predominated while plum green was more commonly found during the Yuan period. Those with yellowish or orangy glaze was the result of un-intended oxidizing atmosphere which occurred during firing process. 

Longquan wares of this period placed special emphasis on the glaze to bring out the aesthetics of the work. Hence, decorations were used sparingly.  Attention is placed on the form, with emphasis on clean cut contour and raised relief vertical or horizontal lines on the body to create the ribbed effect. The ribbed effect refers to the lighter tone raised lines on the vessels.  During firing, the thick glaze flows away from the protruding lines. The glaze is therefore thin and has a lighter colour tone.  Good classic examples which demonstrate such charcteristics are the above vase with raised bow string lines and the below incense burner.

Compared to the earlier phase, there was greater variety of vessels .  New form of vases, bowls, dishes, ewers, water droppers and incense burners were introduced.  They are generally small in size. The most common decorations are raised relief bow string line, lotus petals and applique motifs such as fish  peony, dragon, phoenix, flower and etc.   There was little use of carved/incise technique as the thick more opaque glaze would conceal the motif.

Archaic Cong-shaped vase

A water dropper dated to late Southern Song/early Yuan period


Another two form of incense burner which were first produced at least by the Early Yuan period

Southern Song vase, similar form continued to be produced during the Yuan period

During mid 13th Century, those bowls with broader lotus petals and thick foot were still produced.  However they were soon replaced by a more refined version.   It is more thinly potted and has foot that is thin and well trimmed.  It also has slender lotus petals on the external wall.

Carved lotus petals on vessels was particularly popular during this phase.  They were also found on dishes which came in variety of sizes of dishe.  The interior is either plain or decorated with applique motif such as twin fishes, dragon, tortoise or flower on the interior base.   Their popularity persisted and continued to be produced in large quantity for export during the Yuan period.  It is difficult to differentiate those produced in Late Southern Song to early Yuan phase.  Generally, the quality deteriorated after early Yuan period.  It has a thicker foot and the finishing tends to be more rough.

A similar bowl dated to 1st year of Deyou (德祐元年) (A.D 1275) was excaved from a grave in Lisui

Different form of dishes in sizes ranging from 12 to 22 cm


Dish with bluish glaze termed Kinuta in Japanese

Such bowl with cover was introduced in Late Southern Song and continued to be produced during the Yuan period


A similar small ewer with slender lotus petals as above was found in a Jiangxi grave dated 4th year of Jingding (景定四年) ie A.D1263. Notice the joint line at the centre of the body.  The body is formed by two parts joined at the center portion.  Together with ewer in melon-shaped body, they were very popular in Southeast Asia market during the Yuan period.


Southern Song melon shaped ewer.  Popular during Yuan  and commonly found in Southeast Asia.

Southern Song  plate with dragon motif. They were particularly popular during the Yuan period

For the Chinese domestic market there was also a type of interesting granary vases which come in a pair, one with a dragon and the other a tiger encircling the neck.  They had replaced those with the tubular spouts which were made during the Northern Song and early Southern Song period.

Granary vases with dragon and tiger


Black paste Guan-type Longquan wares

Celadons with a thick glaze and thin black biscuit were found in small quantity among the shards at kiln sites in Longquan Dayao (大窑).  Based on archaeological excavation, the kiln in Longquan Xikou Wa Yaoyang (溪口瓦窑垟) and  Xiao Mei (小梅)produced the most number of black paste wares.  They are characterised by thin potting and thick glaze which are generally crackled, more transparent and shinier than those found in typical Southern Song Guan wares.  But there were also small number with more subdued fenqing glaze that is hard to differentiate from actual of Guan ware.  In recent years, some of the pieces in the Japanese collections which were in past given a Southern Song Guan ware attribution wares are now reclassified as Longquan Black paste wares.


Vessels excavated from Xiao Mei kiln

The more generally held view is that the paste and glaze formula was adopted from the Southern Song Guan wares.  They were produced during the late Southern Song period around the beginning of 13th Century or slightly earlier.  Some of the wares were produced as tribute wares for the palace.  A sizable number of the vessels  were in archaic ritual vessel form similar to those Guan wares. These include various form of incense burners, vases, bowls, dishes, spittoon and etc.  Generally they are termed Longquan imitation of Guan wares (龙泉仿官).

In recent years, some Chinese Ceramics scholars have suggested that the Xikou ware is Ge wares (哥窑). The most commonly quoted text to support their view is the Ming writing of Lu Tan's Chun Feng Tang Sui bi (陆探的春风堂随笔). In essence it mentioned that during the Song period, there were two Zhang () surname brothers who produced celadon wares in Chuzhou (处州), ie the ancient name for Longquan.  The younger brother () produced the white paste wares and the elder brother () produced the black paste crackled glaze wares.  As in Chinese Ge refers to elder brother, the wares he produced were termed Ge wares.  Some even went farther and suggested  that Ge wares were produced earlier than the Southern Song Guan wares and the potters of  Southern Song Guan wares kiln learnt and adopted the technology.  Hence, they concluded that Ge wares are the earliest Southern Song Guan wares.  There are few supporters of such views and archaeological kiln sites findings in Longquan so far do not appear to substantiate the views either.

Incense burner and Vase from Xiao Mei kiln.  They are similar in form  to those found in Southern Song Guan wares  



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