Glazeware: A Chinese Gift to the World

Jizhou Ware

Jizhou ware bowl
2012.91.89, Jizhou ware bowl, Song dynasty (960–1279) or later
Eason Eige Collection; photo by B. Bernard

Jizhou ware (吉州窑) is a type of black ware that can can fire to a chocolate color. The glaze is often dripped to form expressionistic patterns but can also be geometric or naturalistic. Jizhou ware also includes a Song dynasty innovation known in English as "paper cut." Carefully shaped pieces of paper were placed on a bowl surface to prevent glaze from sticking to that part of the bowl. The bowl shown above includes a repeated paper cut design representing flowering branches. For a second view of the bowl shown above, click here.

Many Song dynasty tea bowls are dark or even black. That's because in Song times, everyone from imperial courtiers down to commoners engaged in a form of competititive tea-drinking. Expensive cakes of tea were finely ground, the powder was placed in the bowl, the bowl was filled with boiling water, and the tea was whisked to create a froth. The quality of the competing teas was judged in part by the whiteness of the froth—which was most obvious in a very dark tea bowl.

Because later potters carefully replicated Song ceramic technology and designs, Jizhou ware tea bowls such as the one shown should perhaps be thought of as Song "style," that is, Song dynasty or later. To see a second example of Jizhou ware, click on the photo below.

Jizhou ware bowl

To learn more: Chinese Glazes by Nigel Wood.

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