Yuan (14th century onward) Longquan wares

During this phase, there was further development in terms of the production technology.  The potters were capable of making large vases, jars and  plates to meet the needs of largely overseas consumers from Southeast Asia and West Asia.  Such large vessels demonstrated the technical competence of the Longquan potters.  They were not easy to produce as warping is a constant challenge that needed to be resolved


This Southern Song Jar is from a hoard in Sichuan.  Such big jars were produced in substantial number during the Yuan period, with many decorated with impressed/carved floral  motif.  There were also those with ribbed body.  Similar jars to above  were found in the Sinan wreck dated A.D 1323


A big jar with floral motif.  Most probably dated to late Yuan period


Yuan incenser burner and jarlet.  The jarlet with ribbed body was produced in large number for overseas market during the Yuan period

Similar big vases were found in the Sinan wreck dated to A.D 1323


Big Plates with moulded motif such as twin fishes or dragon were introduced during the late Song Period.  During the Yuan period, many have the added decorative feature of carved vegetal scrolls on the inner wall

A new type of bowls with incised parallel lines near the rim was introduced.   There were also version with the parallel lines further intersected at interval by slanting lines.  The lower outer wall is decorated with lightly incised petals. The footring is thicker and has unglaze outer base.  In this aspect, it is similar to those introduced during the Northern Song period.  The inner wall of the bowl is decorated with carved  lotus flower.  There were also other decorative variety such as those with elaboate impressed floral motif on inner wall or floral spray on the inner base.  Please refer to below examples.  This type of bowl with expanded belly which has a more gradual curve and a flaring mouth rim became the dominant type.  It remains a popular bowl form even till present day. 


Example with parallel lines near the rim and lightly carved motif on the inner wall



Examples with parallel lines intersected by slanting lines


Example with impress floral motif on the inner wall

Those bowls and dishes with the slender lotus petals on the external wall continued to be produced.  The foot became thicker. A new category with carved floral/vegetal motif on the internal wall was introduced.  Bigger size bowls and plates were also added to the product range. Stem cups also made appearance around this period.


The footring wall becomes thicker.  Finishing of the lotus petals became less refine especially for the later Yuan pieces


There was overseas demands for big bowls and plates.  This example has a diameter of 26 cm.  There are also those with even larger diameter.


A form of small dish shaped like a basin made of bamboo strips  was introduced during the Yuan period


Another example with applique and carved motif


Some examples of stem cups

Various sizes jarlets were produced in large quantity to meet the demand of mainly Sutheast Asian consumers.  They include those with lugs on the shoulder and those without.  The body of the jarlet is either plain or decorated with moulded motif, the most popular being dragon and flower.


Applique motif in biscuit form was used quite extensively during the Yuan period. There were also figurines with body parts such as the face and hands in biscuit form.  After firing, the unglaze biscuit motif usually oxidised into a orange colour tone.   Another decorative element was the application of iron brown spots on the vessels.  In some examples below, we can see that both biscuit moulded motif and iron spots were applied on the vessel.

Yuan Yuhuchun vase decorated with brown spots/splashes


The unglaze ring on the outer base and the impressed flower indcates that this is most likely a later Yuan piece.


 By the second quarter of 14th century, majority of the vessels was applied only with a single layer of glaze.  From the economic perspective, this was probably inevitable.  The overseas demands was huge and it was economically impractical to use the time-consuming technique of multiple glazing.   The glaze is thus thinner and its colour mainly more pea green/greyish green.  As thin glaze does not obscure carved or impressed motif, it became popular again.  Many bowls with impressed/embossed floral decoration were recovered from the late Yuan Binh Chau wreck in Central Vietnam in 2013 A.D.

Impressed/embossed floral decoration from Binh Chau wreck

Two interesting bowl fragments with impressed floral decoration and the character Zhiyuan si nian (至元四年) ie 4th year of Zhiyuan (1338 A.D) were recovered from a mid Yuan/early Ming ancient distribution centre in Jiangsu Taicang Fan Cun Jing (太仓樊村泾) in 2016.

Fragment with 4 character Zhi Yuan Si nian mark (1338 A.D)

For some low end bowls/plates, an unglaze ring was scraped on the interior base to facilitate stacking during firing.  This mass production method was widely adopted by kilns in both Northern and Southern China. Please see below example.


Dish with an unglaze ring on inner base

During the late Yuan period, there was modification to the stacking method.  In the earlier phase, the lip of the foot of a bowl/plate was trimmed to remove the glaze.  Hence, it could sit on a disc support during firing. During the late Yuan period, the foot was fully glazed.  Instead, the outer base has an area of unglaze ring.  This area supports a ring shaped disc during firing. Unglaze ring on outer base of plates/bowls continued to be adopted during the Ming period.


A big plate with lip of the foot trimmed to remove the glaze.  This form with more tapered profile were found in the Sinan wreck dated A.D 1323.

Examples of large plates with impressed floral motif were recently found in a Yuan shipwreck  near Quang Ngai in Central Vietnam.  The cargo consisted of mainly Longquan wares but there were also Fujian ceramics and some quantity of Yuan blue and white and brown spotted jarlets.

An example from the recently salvaged (Sep 2012) Yuan celadon plate     
from the Yuan wreck near Quang Ngai in Central Vietnam                          
Besides those with plain round rim, there were those with the scallop rim. The plate is shallower and the wall curves more  gently towards the foot.  The glazed lip of the foot is also rounded.  I have seen one similar scallop rim plate with a xinyou (辛酉) cyclical date (most like A.D. 1381 ie Ming Hongwu period) incised on the unglaze ring.

During the transition from Yuan to Ming, there was also a category of plates with recess base. A clear Dynastic period attribution is very difficult.  They usually have impressed vertical strips on the inner wall and an impressed motif on the inner base, most commonly flower.  Such plates are usually thickly potted, heavy and high fired.  Similar plates as the one below were found in the Turiang wreck dated to the last quarter of 14th Century (Ming Hongwu period).  Another example with the impressed flower is shown below.  Most are usually attributed to the Early Ming period and majority are likely to be produced during the early Ming phase.  However, they are already in production by the late Yuan period.

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