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The Jizhou kilns were located near Yonghe in central Jiangxi province. Archaeological research and ancient records showed that Jizhou kilns started production from the Late Tang/5 Dynasties period. The earliest products consisted of white wares with a tinge of light bluish tone. The vessels consisted mainly of ewers, dish and bowls. The bowls could be plain or have impressed motif on the interior base. Motifs consisted of a single chinese character such as ji (记) , ji (吉) or floral scrolls, fish in waves. There are also those with iron brown chinese characters such as ji (吉), fu (福), tai ping (太平) and etc.
By early southern Song, Jizhou started producing black wares. The glaze tends to be thin and dark chocolate or dark brown in colour. The paste of Jizhou ware varies from a grayish white to a light biscuit colour. The foot of the bowl is very low and hardly visible from the front view. The early products were comparatively poor substitutes of the thick and glossy glaze of the famous Jian black wares of Fujian province.
The Jizhou potters were however very creative and subsequently introduced new decorative techniques to improve on the attractiveness of their black wares. The first technique involved a second lighter colour over-glaze which is sprinkled, trailed or painted on the dark brownish base glaze. This new technique makes Jizhou temmoku wares distinctive and ensured its place in the history of ancient Chinese ceramics art.
Song Jizhou bowl with white bluish suffusions in Shanghai Museum
Two well-known products involved sprinkling a lighter over-glaze to produce the so called the tortoise shell and tiger fur effects. They may have a dry moldy mottled quality or could be more transparent and glossy if fired at a higher temperature.
Ewer in Shanghai Museum
Other types of effects were also produced as shown in below photo. According to Nigel Wood in his book "Chinese Glazes", the composition of the recipes of the lighter colour over-glaze is essentially similar. The results were probably the result of kiln atmosphere and temperature. On majority of the pieces, a white milky substance were also present especially on the area with the lighter colour glaze. The lighter over-glaze is rich in calcia and magnesia which produced a yellowish-milky opalescence and with further heating above 1260 degree centigrade become a rich transparent ambers. The main ingredients in these Jizhou over-glaze were probably wood ashes of some low-silica type.
The Jizhou potters also used paper cuts for decorations. Usually Vessels with such decor were first coated with a dark chocolate glaze. After which openwork stencils of cut paper was positioned on the interior wall. A lighter glaze is then sprinkled over the whole of the interior and sometime the external wall. After the paper shape is removed, it showed a black design on a lighter colour mottled background. A variation have the design in lighter colour on a black background. Some more commonly found paper cut designs include plum blossom, floral spray, dragon, and phoenix. There are also those with rhomboid patterns and 4 Chinese characters such as fu shou kang ning (福寿康寧) ie fortune, longevity, health and peace or chang ming fu gui (长命福贵) ie long life and prosperity.
Another interesting variation is positioning the papercut design on the vessel and then applying the dark chocolate glaze. The design could be left unglaze or sometime the details enhanced with iron brown slip and the whole design covered with a transparent glaze before firing.
Another famous Jizhou black glazed ware is that with the naturalistic leaf decoration. A pre-rotted leaf with only the skeletal remains may have been used. Very likely, it is coated with a lighter colour glaze before it is positioned on the interior of a black glazed bowl.
Jizhou kilns also produced Cizhou type wares with under-glaze iron brown painted motif. In some examples, part of the motif is incised such as the veins of the leaves on the pillow below. Thee are also those with curved motif. The earliest known examples of iron painted motif were from a tomb at Nanchang and could be dated to A.D. 1209. During the Yuan period, under-glaze painted wares became the main production of Jizhou kiln.
Yuan Jizhou iron-black painted stylised floral container in Beijing palace Museum
Jar with curved motif in Shanghai Museum
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Copyright: NK Koh (14 Apr 2008)