The date of a rare blue-and-white wine jar in the Chinese Collection


Note 

In accordance with the tradition of Chinese handscroll painting, the illustrations on the blue-and-white Wine jar have a clockwise, directional flow. Thus, in keeping with the way in which these illustrations are intended to be seen, figs no. 1a–1e have been positioned to be viewed from right to left. Ed. 

A wine jar made of porcelain, decorated with a continuous landscape painted in cobalt blue under a transparent glaze, in the Chinese collection of the National Gallery of Victoria (figs 1a–e), has a very interesting history. It was auctioned in Sydney in 1927 as a blue-and-white vase of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), along with other objects of Chinese art from the collection of Dr R. A. Fox.1Catalogue of the Dr R. A. Fox Collection of Oriental Art Treasures, Sydney, 1927, p. 35, no. 296. Dr Fox had acquired his collection during a lengthy stay of more than thirty years in China.2ibid., p. 1. Together with other objects this blue-and-white jar was purchased for the Gallery at that auction by the Felton Bequest on the recommendation of the then-director, Bernard Hall.3Memoranda to Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria from the Director, Bernard Hall, dated 21 September, 11 October, and 20 October 1927 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). The blue-and-white wine jar was bought for 76 guineas. When the authenticity of some of the objects in the Chinese collection of the Gallery came under the attack of a retired antique dealer from Adelaide in 1928, the blue-and-white jar was among fifty-seven objects that were accused of being modern reproductions. The dealer went as far as airing his accusations in the newspaper, The Argus.4Letters from Mr Frank Godden, Adelaide, to one of the Trustees of the Felton Bequests’ Committee, dated 26 April, 14 May 1927, and 10 September 1928; The Argus, 19 and 30 March and 3 April 1928 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). To resolve the controversy the Gallery sent a selection of sixteen of these objects to the British Museum for the expert opinion of the world-renown specialist of Chinese ceramics, R. L. Hobson, Keeper of the Department of Ceramics and Ethnography.5Letter from the Chief Librarian and Secretary of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, to the Secretary of the British Museum, London, dated 4 February 1929 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). With the exception of one small vase, all the objects sent were considered by Hobson as genuine antiques. In Hobson’s view, the blue-and-white wine jar was ‘genuine and of very good quality, early Ming’.6Letter from R. L. Hobson to the Chief Librarian and Secretary of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, dated 11 April 1929 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). 

One of the reasons for the dealer to doubt this jar, one could surmise, must have been its most unusual decoration. It is decorated with a continuous landscape of the Southern Sung (1127–1279) tradition, in the styles of Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei, the two leading landscape artists of the Imperial Academy during the Southern Sung period.7James Cahill, Chinese Painting, Skira, Geneva, 1960, pp. 79–87. To my knowledge, this jar seems to be an isolated example. On the evidence of the landscape painting style one is tempted to date the wine jar as early as the 13th century. But immediately one is cautioned by two important factors. Firstly, the style of Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei, the so-called Ma-Hsia school of painting, continued in the Yüan Dynasty (1280–1368) and was revived in early Ming (1368-1644). Secondly, there is no conclusive evidence, either textural or archaeological, that blue-and-white porcelain was produced as early as the Southern Sung period. 

In attempting to date this jar, I wish to relate it to the pictorial style in painting and to the technical and decorative aspects of other ceramic forms. 

I           Pictorial analysis of the blue-and-white landscape 

Before beginning to compare the landscape on this jar to other landscape paintings, I will outline briefly the general history of the Southern Sung tradition of landscape painting. The style of landscape painting originated by Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei (the Ma-Hsia school) had great popular appeal in the type of idyllic and misty landscapes depicted. It was followed by countless painters in the Southern Sung Period. However, after the fall of the Southern Sung Dynasty, when China was ruled by the foreign Mongols, the Ma-Hsia school lost its importance and took on the character of a local tradition in Chekiang Province, centring on Hang-chou, the capital of the previous Southern Sung Dynasty. As the Mongols of the Yüan Dynasty (1280–1368) took very little interest in Chinese culture, scholars living in semi-retirement in the south took the lead in cultural activities during this period. Paintings done by these literary men as a pastime became the most progressive current in painting. The styles of the Ma-Hsia school was carefully avoided by the literati painters for being too open in their emotional appeal, too closely associated with the fallen Southern Sung Dynasty, and with professionalism as well. With the fall of the Mongols in 1368 China was once again governed by a native dynasty, the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The capital was moved from Peking in the north to Nanking in the south. In the general effort to restore to the Imperial court some of the traditional Chinese institutions that had been neglected since the Sung period, the Ma-Hsia style of landscape painting was officially sponsored and revived among the Sung painting styles, which by this time represented the conservative current in painting. It was then revitalised and became popular in the style of the so-called Che school of painting which flourished in the 15th and early 16th centuries.8ibid., pp. 99–123. 

With the general history of the Ma-Hsia style of painting in mind, I will now try to date the landscape on the blue-and-white jar in terms of style by comparing it to various paintings attributed to the Southern Sung, the Yuan, and the Ming periods. Since the Ma-Hsia style of painting in itself is not yet thoroughly studied, whatever conclusions I draw through comparative study must remain tentative. To authenticate a Southern Sung painting is a difficult problem in itself; for example, paintings that were once regarded as being done in the Southern Sung period are now considered to have been painted in the Sung style in the early Ming period. 

  

A landscape Pure and remote view of stream and hills (fig 2), painted in ink on paper in the form of a handscroll, in the Palace Museum collection in Taipei, is attributed to Hsia Kuei and claimed as perhaps the supreme masterpiece of the whole Ma-Hsia school. Its earliest colophon is dated 1378 of early Ming.9Chinese Art Treasures: A Selected Group of Objects from the Chinese National Palace Museum and the Chinese National Central Museum Exhibited in the United States, 1961–1962, Skira, Geneva, 1961, p. 124, no. 57. As in the Hsia Kuei scroll, the landscape on the wine jar depicts a romantic vision of towering cliffs, soaring peaks, distant mountains enveloped in misty voids, and trees and rocks enclosing empty areas of human activities. Rocks, mountains, and trees are rendered in a painterly fashion with brushstrokes and washes in a wide range of subtle tonal gradations that are built from light to dark. Rocks and cliffs are basically conceived and outlined in simple three-dimensional form with well-defined planes meeting at a sharp angle (figs 1d, 1e, 2). The hard rocks are then chiselled into sharp irregular facets by brushstrokes known as the ‘axe-cut ts’un’,10Ts’un, literally meaning ‘wrinkles’, is a term for brushstrokes which give rocks and mountains three-dimensional structural form and surface texture, but it is usually interpreted as ‘texture strokes’. The so-called ‘axe-cut’ texture strokes are brushstrokes in broad sweeps of ink, applied with the brush held in an inclined position. The resemblance of the resulting multi-faceted surface of the rock to that of a block of wood hewn with an axe accounts for the name of ‘axe-cut’ stroke. See Cahill, Chinese Painting, p. 40. a convention which identifies with the Ma-Hsia style of painting. But stylistically there are differences. The rocks in the landscape attributed to Hsia Kuei are depicted in a more precise and detailed manner, with tiny dry and wet texture strokes, as though recording the minute observations of rocks in nature. On the other hand, rocks in the painting on the jar are painted in a more summary manner, with broad wet brushstrokes; for example, the highlighted surface of some rocks and cliffs are sketched in a casual and abbreviated manner with a few ‘axe-cut’ strokes in a blank area. One could perhaps explain this stylistic difference largely in terms of medium: the Hsia Kuei painting was painted on paper, an absorbent surface, which allows time to execute the painting slowly in tiny, dry texture strokes, whereas the ceramic decorator had to paint very quickly on the ceramic surface in wet, broad strokes. However, one cannot help feeling that the artist who did the Hsia Kuei painting was thinking solely of depicting the rocks without being aware of the conventions that he was using, whereas the ceramic decorator was thinking in terms of both the object to be depicted and the stylistic conventions that he was following and applying. Certain stylistic idiosyncrasies in the Hsia Kuei painting are repeated in a more consistent and exaggerated manner in the painting on the jar: for instance, the continuous even outlines of the rocks turn suddenly at an acute angle, creating a rectangular protrusion, and the soaring needle-like peaks are depicted with almost perpendicular walls (figs 1d, 1e, 2). In spite of the fact that the artist of the blue-and-white landscape was applying the conventions of the Hsia Kuei manner, the three-dimensional structure and the hard, rugged surface of the rocks and cliffs are successfully conveyed. In both paintings under discussion, the pine trees are portrayed with elegance and painted with great sensitivity (figs 1b, 1d, 1e, 2). The elongated trees are moving and turning gracefully in three-dimensional space, with branches moving in front of and behind one another. Outlined in a continuous, even, flowing line that turns in sharp angles, the trees are charged with great vitality and energy. There is a certain degree of tenseness and crispness in the drawing of the trees, particularly in the way some of the branches are pointing sharply like needles. In contrast to the rocks, we are not aware of stylistic conventions with the trees in the blue-and-white landscape. They appear to be more animated than the trees in the Hsia Kuei painting; one of the pine trees is portrayed with leaves blowing in the breeze (fig. 1d). Moreover, the trees in the blue-and-white landscape are carefully composed to suit the shape of the jar, and within each tree the branches and leaves are held in subtle balance (fig. 1e). 

The conventionalisation in the depiction of rocks found in the blue-and-white landscape also appears in a painting by the Yüan Dynasty artist, Sun Chün-tse, in the style of the Ma-Hsia school. Painted in ink and colour on silk, this hanging scroll was formerly attributed to Ma Yüan.11James Cahill, Hills Beyond A River: Chinese Painting of the Yüan Dynasty, 1279–1368, Weatherhill, New York, 1976, colour plate 4. It was only recently that Sun’s signature was discovered hidden under a partially concealing stroke of ink in the lower left corner of the painting. Sun Chün-tse, a native of Hang-chou, was a minor artist skilled in painting landscapes in the style of Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei.12ibid., pp. 74–75. As in the blue-and-white landscape, the receding planes of the rocks are painted in an almost uniform area of dark washes, contrasting sharply with the highlighted foreground planes, which are rendered in an abbreviated manner with prominent ‘axe-cut’ texture strokes. The trees in the Sun Chün-tse painting, however, are more stylised; they are more elongated, moving in a serpentine manner, and much vitality is lost in the laboriousness of the surface details. 

So far, there are stylistic similarities between the landscape on the wine jar and paintings belonging to both the Southern Sung and the Yüan periods. I now turn to a Ming painting attributed to Tai Chin in the Gallery’s collection (fig. 3). Tai Chin (active c. early 15th century), a native of Chekiang Province, served in the court of Hsüan-tsung (r.1427–35) for a few years, and then returned to his birthplace near Hang-chou, where he attempted to earn his living as a painter; he died in poverty. He was credited by writers of later ages with founding the Che school of painting, named after his native province, Chekiang. He was also credited with having revitalised the Ma-Hsia tradition of landscape painting.13id., Parting at the Shore: Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368–1580, Weatherhill, New York, 1978, pp. 45–53. The landscape painting, in ink and colour on silk in hanging scroll form, is signed with Tai Chin’s signature. However, it could have been painted by a Che follower of late 15th – early 16th century.14It resembles paintings by Wang E., a native of Chekiang Province and a Che school follower, who was active in the Ming Imperial court of the Hung-chih period (1488–1505), and was called by the Hung-chih emperor ‘the Ma Yüan of our time’. See Cahill, Parting at the Shore, p. 125, fig. 52. 

The landscape attributed to Tai Chin typifies the degeneration and hardening of the Ma-Hsia style into pure conventions and mannerisms, which went far beyond the Yüan landscape by Sun Chün-tse and the blue-and-white landscape on the wine jar. The rocks and mountains are reduced to a patterning of overlapping planes, with irregular, fuzzy outlines and scratchy ‘axe-cut’ texture strokes, and with very little allusion to volumetric structure. The same kind of patterning applies to the group of trees in the foreground. The occasional pointed tree branches in the Ma-Hsia style had now become a repetitive mannerism in itself, or a theme to be indulged in. The very lines that were supposed to delineate the trees and rocks had now assumed a significance of their own and were portrayed in nervous, agitating, calligraphic movements. 

It is not surprising that by the early part of the 16th century the Che school, which included court painters and professional painters working outside the Imperial court, lost its popularity as the court began to lose its influence in painting and the literati current centring around Su-chou in Kiangsu Province took the lead in painting. By the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the Che style of painting, as well as the Ma-Hsia school which it followed, was discarded as ‘vulgar’, ‘heterodox’ (incorrect and perverted in its approach to painting), ‘sweet’ (over-appealing), and ‘dependent’ (lacking in originality).15ibid., pp. 128–34. 

I now turn to study the human figures in the landscape (figs 1a, 1c). The figures are much larger than those in the Hsia Kuei landscape (fig. 2); although the human figures are extremely small in the Hsia Kuei handscroll, there was a general tendency for human figures to become larger in Southern Sung landscapes of the Ma-Hsia school, especially in paintings on fans and album leaves.16id., The Art of Southern Sung China, Asia Society, New York, 1962. As in the Hsia Kuei handscroll and other Southern Sung paintings,17ibid. the theme of scholars enjoying nature is portrayed in the blue-and-white landscape: for example, the scholar with a stick crossing the bridge, followed by a servant boy carrying the musical instrument, chin; and two scholars sitting under trees and gazing into the misty empty space. However, the scene with the pavilion (fig. 1e) is not commonly found in Southern Sung landscapes. Under the pavilion, two scholar figures appear to be serving wine to a guest dressed in the attire of a Buddhist monk, seated at the table in the centre. Outside the pavilion is a servant boy holding a bow; he faces a pine tree upon which cranes, symbols of longevity, are perched.18The pine tree is also a symbol of longevity. See C. A. S. Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives, Dover, New York, 1976, pp. 101–2, 226, 192, 327. The figure seated at the table seems to be gesturing a refusal of the wine. The wine ewer held by one of the scholar figures appears to be made of metal, but it is hard to tell from such a tiny drawing. At this point, one can’t help thinking that the ewer might give the clue to the dating of the jar, at least its earliest date. Metal ewers dated to the Sung period have recently been found in excavations in China.19Metal ewers of the Sung Dynasty have been excavated in Shansi and Szechwan Provinces. See ‘Shansi Hsiang-fen-hsien Ch’u-t’u Sung-tai T’ung-ch’i’ (Bronze Objects of the Sung Dynasty Excavated from the Hsiang-fen Prefecture of Shansi Province), Wên Wu, 1977, no. 12, pp. 89–90. The bronze ewer illustrated in fig. 4, p. 90, of this article is more angular in shape than the one depicted in our blue-and-white landscape. It also appears in ceramic forms assigned to the Yüan Dynasty or 14th century; for example, in celadon, blue-and-white, and underglaze red.20See Margaret Medley, The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics, Phaidon, Oxford, 1976, p. 185, fig. 137, blue-and-white ewer excavated from Pao-tin, Hopei Province, 14th century; id., Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, Faber, London, 1974, plate 50B, copper-red ewer, Brooklyn Museum of Art; Oriental Ceramics, vol. 7, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1964, black-and-white illustration no. 56, Lung-ch’üan celadon ewer, Yüan Dynasty, 13th–14th century. 

With regard to the style of drawing, the human figures on our jar (figs 1a, 1c, 1e) are not painted in the tradition of the Ma-Hsia school, and it is very hard to relate them to the figurative styles in painting.21See paintings attributed to the Southern Sung period in Cahill, The Art of Southern Sung China. They seem to belong to the traditions in ceramic decoration. The undulating clouds in the landscape on the jar (fig. 1a) are also outside the traditional styles in painting, but are found within the ceramic tradition. There is a similar rendering of clouds and human figures in the decoration of a stoneware jar (fig. 4) in the Tz’ǔ-chou tradition,22Τz’ǔ-chou is a name designating stonewares of a great diversity that were produced for the everyday use of the common people from the late T’ang times (618–906) to at least the end of the 14th century. The chief centres of Τz’ǔ-chou ware production were in the provinces of Honan and Hopei in the north, but excavations in China since 1949 have shown that these wares were widely produced throughout China. See Medley, The Chinese Potter, pp. 123–44, and Sherman E. Lee and Wai-kam Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yüan Dynasty (1279–1368), Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1968, p. 11. attributed to the Yüan Dynasty, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.23Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols, catalogue no. 55. Also see Oriental Ceramics, vol. 12, colour plate 30, pp. 303–4. Our blue-and-white jar also resembles this jar in shape, which tapers gracefully from the relatively high shoulder towards the waist. The decoration is painted in enamel colours on a transparent glaze on white slip. One noticeable similarity is the slight upward movement at the tip of the drapery fold, as though blown in the wind. The linear technique of drawing is, however, slightly different. The clouds and figures in the Metropolitan Museum jar are delineated in continuous, fluent brushstrokes. In contrast, those on the Gallery’s blue-and-white jar are drawn in very fine lines of uniform thickness that almost resemble pen-drawing. The human figures are outlined in short, interrupted, almost hesitating, fine lines. The way some of the figures in the landscape on the Melbourne jar are depicted with an exaggerated round face with protruding forehead (figs 1a, 1b, 1c, 1f) resembles figure drawings on some of the Tz’ǔ-chou vases painted in black under a transparent turquoise glaze, such as a vase in the Dreyfus collection.24For example, a vase from the Dreyfus collection illustrated in Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols, catalogue no. 50. A Japanese source reports that vases such as the one from the Dreyfus collection were excavated from a Liao Dynasty tomb of 1018. See ibid., p. 12. Perhaps, the closest resemblance in terms of linear technique is found in the decoration on a group of Tz’ǔ-chou ceramic pillows, which commonly bear the stamp of the family or company that made them (usually that of the Chang family), about the Northern Sung to the Yüan period (12th–14th century). These pillows are made of stoneware covered with a white slip, and decorated with drawings in black slip under a transparent glaze. The decorations consist of landscapes in which figures play only a minor role, or scenes with large figures in garden scenes, illustrating stories, dramas or dreams. These scenes are depicted in a linear technique, consisting mainly of outlines that resemble drawings in woodblock prints or book illustrations.25See Roderick Whitfield, ‘Ts’ǔ-chou Pillows with Painted Decoration’, in Margaret Medley (ed.), Chinese Painting and the Decorative Style, A colloquy held 23–25 June 1975, Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia, no. 5, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, 1975, pp. 74–94. The fine line drawings of the clouds and figures, which tend to be drawn in broken, interrupted strokes, resemble closely the technique of drawing in, for example, the clouds and figures on a headrest (fig. 5), attributed to the 13th century, in the Victoria and Albert Museum.26Medley, The Chinese Potter, p. 130, fig. 92. 

 

With regard to the landscape painting covering the major portion of the jar, there are discernible stylistic similarities between the blue-and-white landscape and paintings of the 13th–14th centuries (Southern Sung–Yüan period) in both painting and ceramic traditions. I now turn to the discussion of the technical and other decorative aspects of the jar. 

II          Technical and decorative aspects 

(a) Comparison with blue-and-white porcelains of the Yüan period, 14th century 

In view of the stylistic similarities in pictorial evidence between the blue-and-white landscape on our jar and materials belonging to the 13th–14th centuries, it is natural to make comparative studies between the Gallery’s jar and blue-and-white porcelains of this period in the technical and decorative aspects. 

Exactly when blue-and-white porcelain was first produced is still a perplexing problem to be solved. The traditional Chinese belief is that blue-and-white was first made in the Sung Dynasty (960–1279). However, due to the lack of any conclusive evidence, either textural or archaeological, for the appearance of blue-and-white in the Sung period, this view has not been universally accepted. One of the current Western views, represented chiefly by Margaret Medley, is that cobalt blue was not used as decoration on porcelain under a clear glaze ‘before about the end of the first quarter of the fourteenth century; it may in fact have started even later’.27id., Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 32. In her view, blue-and-white porcelain was probably introduced sometime between 1322–30. One of the reasons for her argument is that blue-and-white porcelain was not mentioned in the T’ao-ch’i lüeh (Appendix to the Ceramic Records), a survey of the ceramic industry in the early Yüan period, written as a supplementary note to the Fou-liang Hsien-chih (Annals of Fou-liang), published in 1322.28ibid., pp. 31–33. This point of view could be challenged by some scholars who interpret the term ‘Ch’ing-pai’, which is mentioned in T’ao-ch’i lüeh, as meaning blue-and-white porcelain in that particular context, rather than porcelain with a bluish clear glaze as interpreted by most Western authorities. There is still much controversy over the Chinese term, ‘Ch’ing-pai’, which also appears in Southern Sung (1127–1279) texts. The term ‘Ch’ing-pai’ consists of two characters – ‘ch’ing’ meaning either blue or green, and ‘pai’ meaning white. The term is normally used together with ‘Τz’ǔ-chi’, meaning ceramic ware, to form the phrase ‘Ch’ing-pai tz’ǔ-chi’, which can have a number of possible interpretations due to the contextual nature of the Chinese language: (a) green wares and white wares, i.e. celadon wares and white wares; (b) blue-and-white wares, i.e. porcelain decorated with blue and white designs under a transparent glaze; and (c) white wares with a bluish (or greenish) glaze, called Ying-ch’ing wares since Ch’ing times (1644–1912). Among the known existing texts, the full and more precise descriptive term of blue-and-white porcelain, ‘Ch’ing-pai hua tz’ǔ-chi’, meaning porcelain decorated with blue and white designs, was not used until Wang Ta-yüan’s Tao-l-chih-lüeh (Descriptions of Island Foreigners) of 1379 in the Yüan dynasty. See S. T. Yeo and Jean Martin, ‘Chinese Blue and White Ceramics – A Brief Introduction’, and Grace Wong, ‘Chinese Blue-and-White Porcelain and Its Place in the Maritime Trade of China’, in Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, Arts Orientalis, Singapore, 1978, pp. 20–24, 53–66. According to Medley, a date of introduction such as 1322–30 would have given the decorators and kiln masters ample time to ‘achieve the degree of control that is displayed with such spectacular effect’ in the pair of temple vases, dated 1351 by inscription, in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, which is accepted by Medley as ‘our first and only securely dated fourteenth-century examples’.29Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 32. The David vases came directly from China in 1928. Each vase bears a long inscription on the neck, dated 1351, stating that the vases, together with an incense burner, were presented to a temple by Chang Wen-chih from the Prefecture of Hsin-chou, which has been identified with the modern Kuang-hsin, about 70 miles south-east of Ching-tê Chên, Kiangsi Province, which became the centre of ceramic production in China after the Yüan period (1280–1368). See Margaret Medley, Illustrated Catalogue of Porcelains Decorated in Underglaze Blue and Copper Red in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, 1963, pp. 46–48, and Oriental Ceramics, vol. 7, p. 310, colour plate 39. At one time the early mid-14th-century date of these vases was reluctantly accepted by scholars because they seemed to stand alone in their complexity of design and decoration. But they sparked off a great deal of interest in the study of 14th-century blue-and-white in the West. The close resemblance of these vases to some of the pieces in the collections in the Near East: (a) the blue-and-white porcelains in the Topkapu Sarayi Museum at Istanbul, known to have been in the West since Ming times (1368–1644); and (b) those in the large collection formed by Shah Abbas the Great, which he presented in 1611 to the Shrine of Shaikh Safi at Ardebil, and now in Teheran, had the two-fold effect of establishing the authenticity of the 1351 vases and dating the Near Eastern pieces as belonging to the 14th century. See Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White, Faber, London, 1964, pp. xv-xvi, 12. 

Margaret Medley also thinks that the motivation for the production of blue-and-white porcelain was largely due to stimulation from outside China, and that it was ‘initially produced to satisfy foreign demand in both form and decoration’.30Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 33. It was made to satisfy the demands of the wealthy foreign merchants (Persian and Arab) residing in the trading port of Ch’üan-chou, Fukien Province, and the export market in the Near East. She also suggests that the cobalt material, as well as the technique of applying cobalt as decoration under a clear glaze, was introduced to the Chinese potters from the Near East, where cobalt had long been used for the decoration of earthenware, particularly in Persia during the 13th century when it was often used on tiles under an alkaline glaze.31ibid., pp. 31–34. 

Scholars in China, however, hold quite a different view. They have not abandoned the traditional view that blue-and-white originated in the Sung Dynasty, although archaeological evidence has not yet succeeded in supporting this view.32Since 1949 isolated examples of early blue-and-white, including sherds attributed to the Sung Dynasty (960–1279), have been found in various parts of central and southern China. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, ‘Shih-t’an Ch’ing-hua-tz’ǔ-chi ti ch’i-yüan Yü T’ê-tien’ (A Preliminary Study into the Origin and Characteristics of Early Blue-and-White Porcelain), Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74; Chao Kuang-lin, ‘Chiai-shao Chi-chien Yüan-tai Ch’ing-hua-tz’ǔ-chi’ (An Introduction to a Few Pieces of Yuan Dynasty Blue-and-White Porcelains), Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, p. 52; Fêng Hsien-ming, ‘Tz’ǔ-chi Ch’ien-shuo’ (A General Discussion on Ceramics), Wên Wu, 1959, no. 9, p. 81. An isolated piece of blue-and-white sherd, decorated with geometric design in a slightly bluish colour and under a clear glaze, was discovered from the ancient T’ang Dynasty (618–906) site of Yang-chou in Kiangsu Province in 1975. It was recovered, with a copper coin datable to 713–41, in a previously undisturbed stratum which has been dated to the late T’ang Dynasty. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74; and ‘Yang-chou T’ang-ch’êng l-chih 1975 Nien Kao-ku Kung-tso Chien-pao’ (A Summary Report on the Archaeological Work Done on the Ancient T’ang Site of Yang-chou in 1975), Wên Wu, 1977, no. 9, pp. 16–30, plate 2, fig. I. In the Fung Ping-shan Museum of the University of Hong Kong a white porcellaneous tripod bowl of depressed globular shape, which is similar in form to the typical T’ang three-colour ware, is decorated with a series of large dots and dashes in underglaze blue under a transparent glaze. See Philip Wen-chee Mao, ‘Early “Blue and White”’, Oriental Art, Autumn 1977, vol. XXVIII, no. 3, pp. 333–36. The author of this article believes that this jar is a specimen of early blue-and-white of the T’ang Dynasty, possibly late T’ang, made in Kung-hsien in northern Honan. For an excellent comprehensive summary of discoveries of blue-and-white, which include those found in China before 1949 and outside China in the Philippines, see Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, pp. 20–24. They tend to see the origin of blue-and-white porcelain as an indigenous development within the Chinese tradition, probably arising from the Τz’ǔ-chou tradition of stoneware made for everyday use, in most parts of China from late T’ang times (618–906) to at least the end of the 14th century. The decorative technique of underglaze painting, and particularly of brush drawing in blue-and-white porcelain, is closely related to Tz’ǔ-chou wares painted in black slips of the Northern Sung period (960–1127). Close resemblance between Τz’ǔ-chou and blue-and-white wares in both form and decoration has also been found. Moreover, the earliest use of underglaze pigments is now known to have been used in kilns at Ch’ang-sha, Hunan Province, in the late T’ang period (9th century); iron oxide and copper oxide were painted on stonewares, producing both green and brown decoration in a free linear style under a buff glaze.33According to the article by Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74, the blue-and-white sherd that was found in the ancient T’ang site of Yang-chou in Kiangsu Province in 1975 resembles wares from kilns at Ch’ang-sha, Hunan Province, in both body and glaze. The cobalt material itself was already known to the Chinese in the T’ang Dynasty, when it was first imported from the Near East and used as a glaze on earthenware.34Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, pp. 74–77, 11, plate 7; Fêng Hsien-ming, ‘Ngo-kuo T’ao-tz’ǔ Fa-chan Chung Ti Chi-ko Wen-t’i-Ts’ung Chung-kuo Ch’u-t’u Wên-wu Chan-lan T’ao-tz’ǔ Chan-p’in T’an-ch’i’ (A Few Problems in the Ceramic Development of Our Country – Discussion of the Ceramic Objects in the Exhibition of Chinese Archaeological Discoveries), Wên Wu, 1973, no. 7, pp. 20–29, p. 14; id., Wên Wu, 1959, no. 9, pp. 81, 70. For a summary in English see the Introduction by Sir John Addis in the Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Related Underglaze Red, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1975, pp. 9–10. 

In spite of recent archaeological finds of what might be blue-and-white porcelains of the Yüan Dynasty in China35Fêng Hsien-ming, Wên Wu, 1973, no. 7, pp. 25–26. According to this article, only about 29 Yüan Dynasty blue-and-white porcelains had been found in China from 1949 until then. They were found in hoards, tombs, and residential sites, and a few early Ming Dynasty tombs dated to the late 14th and early 15th century. No dated epitaphs were found in any of the Yüan Dynasty tombs. the temple vases dated 1351 are still the only guides to the identification of a mid-14th century type of blue-and-white. A sizeable group of blue-and-white, mainly in Western collections, has been assigned to the middle decades of the 14th century by virtue of their stylistic and physical relationships with the 1351 vases.36According to Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pp. xv–xvi, 14th-century blue-and-white porcelain is unrepresented in the Chinese imperial collection and is apparently unknown among connoisseurs in traditional China, although the classical 15th-century types of blue-and-white were fully known to Chinese collectors. 14-century blue-and-white has been identified and classified entirely by the efforts of Western scholars in the period pre-1949, and since the 1930s. Among them are the monumental works on the Near Eastern collections by John Pope in the early 1950s: J. Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White: A Group of Chinese Porcelains in the Topkapu Sarayi Muzesi, Istanbul, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, Occasional Papers, vol. 2, no. 1, 1952; id., Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, 1956. Among others are Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White; and Margaret Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware. As the early history of blue-and-white has not been clearly defined, blue-and-white porcelain related to the 1351 vases is often loosely attributed to the 14th century or the Yüan period, although the 14th century includes the early Ming period and Yüan covers pre-14th century. (These terms will be used interchangeably here to avoid monotonous repetition, e.g. mid-14th century style.) 

The Gallery’s blue-and-white jar shows significant similarities in the potting of the jar to pots assigned to the 14th century. It shows some of the technical difficulties that are found in some of the Yüan wares. The base of the jar, which must have been luted on separately to the body of the jar, fell off, presumably during firing, leaving small pieces of clay on the bottom ring of the jar (fig. 6) so that the pot is at present without a base.37Some of the bottle-vases of the Yüan period had their foot-ring, although not the base, luted onto the body. See Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 36; and J. Pope, ‘Two Chinese Porcelains from the Umezawa Collection’, Far Eastern Ceramic Bulletin, 41, June 1959, pp. 15–22. A mei-ping vase in the Topkapu Sarayi Museum collection, Istanbul, which belongs to the mid-14th century style is, for example, also without a base.38Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White, plate 27. A view of the bottom ring of the vase is shown in Takatoshi Misugi, Chūkinto No Chūgoku Jiki (Chinese Porcelains in Middle Eastern Collections), Gakugei Shorin, Tokyo, 1972, vol. 2: Topukapi Kyūden No Chūgoku Jiki (Chinese Porcelain Collection at the Topkapi Sarayi Museum), p. 93, fig. 53. A large blue-and-white jar in the Percival David Foundation, London, decorated with cutaway panels with applied relief, attributed to the second quarter of the 14th century, is roughly finished and has a sizeable break in the base. According to Margaret Medley it was not until the 14th century that really large pots were produced, and this is the reason why large examples display imperfections, both in the finishing of the structure and in the control of the firing.39Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 52. Inside the Gallery’s jar there are several slight partings and imperfections of the surface. 

As is characteristic of some of the 14th century blue-and-white wares, the Gallery’s jar has throwing ridges visible inside the pot. The glazing is also uneven and irregular. The glaze, which is thick and unctuous, does not, however, have the bluish tint usually found on blue-and-white porcelains of the mid-14th century style. At the lower part of the jar, there are very tiny yellow spots that resemble fine sand. There are also other technical imperfections, such as eruptions of rough lumps of dark clay from the body of the vessel, and pitted surfaces, which are much more numerous inside the jar.40On the general characteristics of the potting and glazing of Yüan blue-and-white porcelains see Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, pp. 76–77; Chao Kuang-lin, Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, pp. 53–54; Sun Ying-chou, ‘Yüan Ming Ch’ing Τz’ǔ-chi ti Chien-ting’ (A Study on Porcelains of the Yüan, Ming, Ch’ing Periods), Wên Wu. 1966, no. 3, p. 49. 

In contrast to the technical imperfections in the potting and glazing of this jar, the application of the blue pigment to the pot is very sophisticated. Like the blue-and-white of the mid-14th century style, the cobalt blue is applied in a painterly fashion with broad washes of colour, building from a lighter to a darker tonality, so that the designs are shaded and modulated, leaving white areas as highlights (fig. 1d). The technique is quite different from the one used on later blue-and-white porcelains (from the latter half of the 15th century onwards), on which the motifs are carefully drawn with outlines and then filled with a uniform wash of blue. Moreover, at first glance the bluish tonality on our jar resembles the blue on the Yüan-style wares, being equally rich, brilliant, and vivid in colour. On closer examination, one discovers some distinct differences. The cobalt blues on the Yüan porcelains tend to be fluid and run into each other, creating a feeling of unevenness. An excessive concentration of blue also tends to produce rusty spots or blackish specks. In contrast, the blue colour on our jar is well controlled; it does not run and there are no imperfections. There seems to be a certain degree of unpredictability in the configuration of the blue on the mid-14th century wares. But with this jar, there are no accidental effects; there is a sense of ‘rightness’ in the relationships of a wide range of tonal gradations, which varies from azure to indigo. It seems that the decorator of the Gallery’s jar, who had ground the cobalt finely and evenly, had complete control of his medium so that forms were modulated with the intended gradations.41On the general characteristics of the cobalt blue decoration of Yüan blue-and-white porcelain see the excellent and perceptive analysis in Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White, pp. 24–29; and Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, pp. 59–81. Also see Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pp. 9–20. 

It is generally known that the cobalt blue used on ceramics in the Yüan dynasty was imported from Persia by sea and was called ‘Sumali’ blue.42Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, pp. 33–34. Chinese sources, chiefly articles in the Wên Wu by Sun Ying-chou, say, that forty percent of Yüan blue-and-white were decorated with local cobalts, which are often mistaken for imported cobalt. What Sun has to say about local cobalt is interesting, as the characteristics agree with the blue on our jar. One characteristic is that it is stable. It is suitable for the painterly technique of applying washes in broad strokes as well as the fine linear technique of drawing, with dark and light tonalities clearly distinguished and brush movements distinctly defined. The colours are fresh and blue without any muddy imperfections. Most interesting of all, Sun Ying-chou comments that the way tonal contrasts and gradations are achieved by applications of washes of local cobalt shows stylistic similarities to that of an ink painting.43Sun Ying-chou, Wên Wu, 1966, no. 3, pp. 49–50; id., Wên Wu, 1965, no. 11, p. 15; id., ‘Ngo Tui Tsao-ch’i Ch’ing-hua Yüan-liao ti Ch’u-pu K’an-fa’ (My Preliminary View on the Blue Cobalt of Early Blue and White Porcelain), Wên Wu, 1959, no. 11, pp. 65, 68, 70. He does not give examples of the forty per cent of Yüan blue-and-white that is decorated with local cobalts. On imported cobalt, he points out the usual characteristics such as having a rich deep blue colour, being unstable and creating a running and uneven effect, having rusty spots, and being unsuitable for fine drawing. He also says that sometimes both imported and local cobalts were used to decorate the same pot. What Sun Ying-chou tells us is quite different from the general view that local cobalts found in China contained a large proportion of manganese impurity which was responsible for a greyish appearance in the blue, in contrast to the purer blue colour of the imported blue from the Near East which was free of manganese, and that the Chinese potters did not succeed in purifying the local cobalt by empirical methods and producing colours as fine as those obtained from imported cobalts until the 17th century. See Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pp. 15–16. Cobalt ore has been reported to have been found in various parts of southern China – in the provinces of Kiangsi, Chekiang, Fukien, Yunnan, Kwangtung and Kwangsi. See Chao Kuang-lin, Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, p. 52. One wonders if our blue-and-white jar was made in a local kiln in Chekiang Province, the homeland of the Southern Sung landscape of the Ma-Hsia style, where kilns of the Yüan Dynasty and blue-and-white sherds of what might belong to the Sung period have been found. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74. On the technical aspects of the jar, I feel that more research and study is required into the potting of the jar, the properties of the body, glaze, and cobalt blue, and the different local kilns. Indeed, some passages in the blue-and-white landscape on our jar, for example the needle-pointed peaks and the part of the cliffs hidden in the mist next to the bridge (fig. 1a), show close resemblances to ink washes on a silk painting. We know that cobalt in liquid form, after being ground and mixed with water, ranges from grey to black in colour and that only after firing does it become blue in colour.44See the description of the making of blue-and-white by Père d’Entrecolles, a Jesuit missionary who lived in the early eighteenth century in Ching-tê Chên in the southern province of Kiangsi, the main centre of manufacture of blue-and-white in China; quoted by Garner, Oriental Blue and White, p. 3, pp. 5–6. In that case, when the decorator painted the landscape or other designs on the pot with the cobalt pigment, it would have been very similar to using ink. 

The vocabulary of decoration on the Gallery’s jar, moreover, is only loosely related to the decorative designs on blue-and-white of the mid-14th century style. The closest resemblance is to the wave band45The wave pattern is interpreted by Kikutaro Saito as a symbol of the waves in the East Sea of Mt P’eng-lai where Taoist immortals are believed to live. See Kikutaro Saito, ‘Gen-sometsuke-ko’ (A Study of Yüan Blue and White and Yüan Drama in the Middle of the Fourteenth Century), Kobijutsu, no. 18, 1967. around the foot of the jar (figs 1a–1g), but it is stylistically different from the wave band, for instance, on the 1351 vases.46Illustrated in Margaret Medley, The Chinese Potter, p. 179, fig. 131. Some of the auspicious symbols of eight treasures47On the symbolic meanings of the eight treasures see Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism, pp. 157, 158. in the band on the shoulder of our pot are also found in the band around the foot of the temple vases of 1351. The decorative band around the neck and the one around the shoulder of our jar do not seem to occur in decorations of the mid-14th century blue-and-white. Moreover, landscape and figure paintings are rare in decorations of this period, which usually consist of floral and fauna motifs, such as lotuses, peonies, chrysanthemums, dragons, phoenixes, peacocks and ducks.48See Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White, pp. 30–48, on the painter’s repertory of 14th-century blue-and-white porcelains. 

Scenes of human figures in landscape settings on Yüan-style blue-and-white, illustrating Yüan dramas, are quite different both in conception and style from the painting on our jar (figs 1a, 1c, 1 d, 1f). This is illustrated by comparing the paintings on a jar attributed to 1350–75 (fig. 7)49Oriental Ceramics, vol. II, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1978, p. 336, colour plates 70, 71. and on a vase assigned to the second half of the 14th century, both in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston.50ibid., p. 336, colour plate 69. The human figures in the Boston blue-and-white are conceived in almost heroic and superhuman proportions, both elongated and squarish, with broad and bulky shoulders, which remind one of Buddhist sculptures of the Yüan period.51See Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols, figs. 1, 2. and cat. nos 2–5. The figures appear heavy and robust, but at the same time almost weightless and inflated, floating above the ground with draperies fluttering slightly in the breeze. They dominate their surroundings of rocks and trees. In contrast the human beings in the landscape on the Gallery’s jar are small and become very much a part of nature; they appear very quiet and rather retiring (fig. 1a). There is a great deal of empty space in the landscape. While the human figures on the Gallery’s jar are simply drawn with fine outlines, the figures on the Boston porcelains are first outlined, and then painted with broad, uneven washes of blue. The rocks and clouds in the paintings on the Boston blue-and-white are formalised into abstract patterns with heavy outlines, which resemble wood-cut illustrations in technique. There is also a feeling of awkwardness and naivety in the drawings of human figures and landscape elements. 

As a whole, Yüan blue-and-white decorations tend to be rich and overcrowded; there seems to be a profusion of decorative motifs (fig. 7).52For examples of Yüan blue-and-white decorations see Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, plates 26A–34B, 40–44B. The jar, on the other hand, is more sparing in decoration; solid areas of design are carefully balanced with empty areas. Spontaneity and vigour, which are present in the decorations of both parties are, however, of different kinds. While Yüan designs are robust, flamboyant, and full of restless energy, the vitality in the paintings on the jar is controlled with a quiet restraint. The decoration on this jar reflects a refinement of taste, that of balance and harmony, which is usually associated with the subtle taste of the Sung period and that of the scholar. 

(b) Late 14th-century, early Ming attribution 

The purity of the blue pigment and the sophistication of its decoration exclude the possibility of dating the Gallery’s jar to the Southern Sung period, although it has Sung flavour. The blue pigment on the archaeological finds in China of what might be blue-and-white of the Sung period are, in most cases, greyish in colour, which is mainly due to impurities present in the pigment, and thus suggest an early stage in the use of cobalt.53See references in note 32 above. This jar resembles Yüan blue-and-white in certain technical aspects but is quite different in spirit, which is perhaps sufficient to exclude a Yüan Dynasty attribution. However, it is akin in feeling, as well as in the nature of the blue pigment to a group of blue-and-white porcelains that have recently been assigned to the latter part of the 14th century, the early Ming period. The attribution, however, is not based on specific dated examples, as in the case of the mid-14th-century style, but is based purely on stylistic comparisons to both the mid-14th-century group and the well-established stylistic criteria of early 15th-century blue-and-white.54Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, pp. 46–62. id., ‘The Yuan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, Ars Orientalis, vol. 9, 1973, pp. 89–101. This stylistic group has often been identified interchangeably as belonging to the 14th century, the Yüan period, or the early Ming. 

The blue colour on the jar is similar to that on a large porcelain dish in the Museum Pusat, Jakarta,55Oriental Ceramics, vol. 3, Museum Pusat, Jakarta: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1977, p. 308, colour plate 46. As with our jar, the glaze shows irregular pitting. The plate is assigned to Yüan or Ming Dynasty, 14th century. See ibid., p. 308. However, a plate, which has almost identical decorations in underglaze red, is attributed by Margaret Medley to the late 14th century, early Ming. See Medley, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, plate 2, fig. 8, pp. 94, 100. which belongs to this stylistic group. The pigment appears stable and does not create a running effect, so that subtle tonal gradations and fine linear drawings are achieved. The blue colour on a porcelain dish in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, attributed to the Hung-wu period of early Ming (1368–98), seems even more stable and better controlled in application.56ibid., vol. 9, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1976, p. 307, colour plate 75. It is also quieter and softer in colour. The drawing tends to be more precise and definite. Probably dictated by a changing taste for refinement and elegance, decorations on the Gallery’s jar and this group of late 14th-century blue-and-white convey an inherent sense of well-defined order and clarity, as well as subtle sensitivity.57In the summary to his study of the blue-and-white porcelain from the Ardebil Shrine, John Pope points out this change in taste for greater refinement, ‘Some time about the turn of the century, soon before or after the year 1400, the technique of the potter underwent a change which yielded wares of much greater refinement …’ See Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, pp. 141–42.

The decorative bands on the blue-and-white jar, those around the neck, shoulder, and waist of the vessel, also point in the direction of a late 14th-century attribution. The thin double-line drawing of the auspicious ‘Ju-i’ (‘as you wish’) symbols58On the symbolic meanings of the ‘ju-i’ pattern see Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism, pp. 238–39. in the neck band, which are the most formalised designs on the jar, resemble the drawings of some of the motifs on vessels of the late 14th-century style extending from late Yuan to early Ming; for example, an underglaze decorated covered jar unearthed in 1961 in the Haitien District of Peking (fig. 8),59Exhibition of Archaeological Finds of the People’s Republic of China, Melbourne, 1977, pp. 122, 123, cat. no. 226. It has an underglaze red lid. Chao Kuang-lin in ‘Introduction to a Few Pieces of Yüan Dynasty Blue and White’, Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, p. 52, dates it to late Yüan. According to Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, during the period from about 1360–75 many of the designs began to be executed in exactly the same way in both underglaze blue and copper red; see p. 46. Also see Medley, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, Ars Orientalis, vol. 9, 1973, pp. 89–101. Pots of the late 14th century also tend to be of very large size, heavy, thick-walled and strongly made; see Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 59. Other examples of this type of wine jar are located in Japan, the British Museum, and the Baur Foundation in Geneva; see ibid., p. 60, plate 53. and large plates in the Palace Museums of both Peking and Taipei.60For the plates in the Palace Museum, Peking, see Fêng Hsien-ming, ‘Shih-szu Shih-chi Ch’ing-hua Ta-p’an Huo Yüan-tai Ch’ing-hua Tz’ǔ-chi ti T’ê-tien’ (Special Characteristics of 14th Century Large Blue-and-White Dishes and Yüan Dynasty Blue-and-White Porcelains), Wên Wu, 1959, no. 1, pp. 56, 52. Fêng attributes the plates to the 14th century of the Yüan period, although he finds them rare and unusual for blue-and-white porcelains of that period. See ibid., p. 56. For the plate in the Palace Museum, Taipei, see Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, pl. 36B. This plate, which is very similar in decoration to those in the Peking Museum, is attributed by Medley to the transitional period from late Yüan to early Ming, 1360–75; see ibid., p. 48. It is interesting that these late 14th-century blue-and-white dishes are found in the Imperial collection, but not those of the mid-14th-century style. It is possible that these were made in the Hung-wu period (1368–99) in early Ming for the court, and hence kept in the collection. One Chinese source tells us that in the second year of the reign of Hung-wu, 1369, early Ming, an Imperial kiln was established in Ch’ing-tê Chên, Kiangsi Province. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-Ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 75. The segmented leaping wave patterns in the waist band (figs 1a–g) show similarities to those decorating vessels of the Hsüan-tê period (1426–36),61For example the wave patterns on the rim of a blue-and-white basin in the National Gallery of Victoria collection, which is illustrated in Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pl. 228. but are much freer and more vigorous in execution, suggesting an earlier date. 

The motif of the mythical animal, Suan-ni,62The mythical animal Suan-ni is said to be a lion or a wild horse which could run for 500 li (Chinese miles). See Tz’ǔ Yüan, Taipei, 1969, p. 971. playing with and guarding money tied in ribbons on the shoulder band of the jar (fig. 9), is also found on blue-and white of the Hsüan-tê period, although it appears as well on a Tz’ǔ-chou pillow painted in a free style in black,63Robert Treat Paine, Jr. ‘Chinese Ceramic Pillows from Collections in Boston and Vicinity’, Far Eastern Ceramic Bulletin, vol. VII, no. 3 (Serial no. 31) September 1955, pp. 944–45, plate 27. attributed to the 12th–13th century. But stylistically, the mythical animals on our jar suggest an earlier stage of development than those seen on blue-and-white wares of the Hsüan-tê period; for example, a jar belonging to Sotheby’s, London,64Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, Arts Orientalis, Singapore, 1978, pp. 44, fig. 22. and a bowl included in the Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Related Underglaze Red held in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Hong Kong, in 1975.65Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Related Underglaze Red, Hong Kong, 1975, p. 63, cat. no. 12, p. 27. The animals on the Gallery’s jar are portrayed with a tremendous sense of vitality and energy, and are much more animated. With manes and tails streaming like flames, these animals are portrayed in rhythmic movement, and show great agility – leaping into the air, standing on hind legs, or grasping a ribbon in their mouths. The animals, as well as the flying ribbons, are painted with great sensitivity in the subtle gradation of tonalities and fine linear drawings. On the other hand, the animals on early 15th-century wares are rendered in a more heavy-handed and conventionalised manner. Highlights on the body of the animals on this jar, for instance, have now become blank strips of empty areas. It seems that the decorators of these early 15th-century vessels were merely applying standardised conventions from a copy book of designs. The decorative motifs of the Hsüan-tê blue-and-white tend to be overcrowded, and are hence not as well adjusted to the existing space of decoration as the designs within the neck band of the Gallery jar, where empty and solid areas are held in subtle balance. The mythical animals, the ribbons and the eight treasures seem to be engaged in a perpetual dance, in a rhythm that harmonises with the other rhythms on the jar, the trees and the waves for example. 

The early Ming, late 14th-century attribution of the blue-and-white jar in the Gallery’s collection is supported by comparative pictorial evidence on jars of a similar type, which are decorated with a continuous landscape with architectural elements and human figures, assigned to the 15th century. One of the blue-and-white jars (fig. 10), attributed to the second half of the 15th century, was found in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and is now in the Museum Pusat, Jakarta.66Oriental Ceramics, vol. 3, Museum Pusat, Jakarta, p. 308, colour plate 49. The other jar, assigned to early 15th century (fig. 11), was shown in an exhibition of Chinese blue-and-white ceramics held in Singapore in 1978, and was probably from a local collection.67Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, pp. 104–7. The decoration on the Gallery’s jar is related stylistically to these jars in the fine outline technique of figure drawing and the segmented leaping wave patterns around the waist of the jar. If the base of our jar had not fallen off, one suspects that the foot ring would have resembled those of the two 15th-century jars in having a white ring with double lines in blue framing the wave patterns above. 

With the exceptions of the stylistic similarities cited above, the decorations on the Jakarta jar (fig. 10) are quite different from those on the Gallery’s jar. The Jakarta jar is decorated mostly with formalised Yüan elements of design: for example, the classical scroll around the neck, the floral scroll on the shoulder, the curly clouds, the archaistic rendering of distant mountains. In addition, the deep blue colour, the fullness in shape, and the way the objects in the landscape are composed in a spontaneous and crowded manner, all these characteristics remind us of the Yüan style. 

Significant stylistic differences are also found between the decorations of the jar in the Gallery’s collection and the one from Singapore (fig. 11). In relation to the landscape elements within the painting, the human figures on the Singapore jar are much taller as well as larger. While the human figures on the Gallery’s jar resemble those on ceramic wares belonging to the 13th–14th century, the human beings in the Singapore landscape are depicted with a mannerism that resembles those found in figure drawings on blue-and-white porcelains of the late 15th century, such as a bowl in the Percival David Foundation:68Medley, The Chinese Potter, p. 204, fig. 150. human figures in elongated proportions are portrayed in a contrived posture, with the body bending at a certain angle and the shoulders raised toward the head, and drapery folds blowing in the wind. The corpulent scholar with a full face, leaning out of the pavilion (fig. 11) seems to have been taken right out of a Che school painting such as, for example, a painting attributed to Chang Lu, active in the early 16th century,69Cahill, Parting at the Shore, colour plate 7, pp. 128–32. and a painting dated by inscription to 1526 by Kuo Hsü (1456–after 1526), who worked in the Imperial court in the Hung-chih period (1488–1505).70Osvald Siren, Chinese Painting, Leading Masters and Principles, Lund Humphries, London, 1958, vol. VI, plate 160, and vol. VII, p. 203. The general surface fuzziness of the decoration on the jar from Singapore is also reminiscent of Che school paintings. Thus, stylistically, the figure drawings of the jar from Singapore tend to date it to the latter part of the 15th and perhaps even to the early part of the 16th century. In agreement with this attribution, the wave and cloud patterns on the Singapore jar show a greater complexity and laboriousness in design than do the other two jars, which in stylistic terms usually suggests a later development. The Jakarta jar (fig. 10), which has so much of the remnants of the Yüan style, as well as new stylistic elements which are not found in Yüan decorations but appear on the jars of the Gallery and Singapore, might have been contemporaneous with the Gallery jar, representing a separate current of stylistic development directly out of the Yüan style. 

In this exploratory and comparative study of the blue-and-white wine jar in the Gallery’s Chinese collection and works of art in both painting and ceramic traditions, we have discovered in this jar Sung stylistic elements that continued into the Yüan period, and were revived in the early Ming, technical similarities with Yüan blue-and-white, and decorative motifs belonging to the Ming period. Moreover, the jar is related to a group of blue-and-white porcelains that are now assigned to late 14th century of the early Ming by a refinement of taste that recalls the Sung Dynasty. Margaret Medley, in her article, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, points out that in this group of porcelains of the late 14th century there was a changeover from the foreign taste of the Yüan blue-and-white to a ‘Chinese-oriented taste’.71Medley, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, Ars Orientalis, vol. 9, 1973, pp. 89–91. The question of patronage of Yüan blue-and-white is an intriguing question. Although there are elements of foreign influence in some of the Yuan blue-and-white decorations, most of the decorative motifs could be related to Sung ceramics, particularly the Tz’ǔ-chou wares from Chi-chou, which is near Ching-tê Chên (centre of ceramic production since Yüan) in Kiangsi Province. (See Fêng Hsien-ming, Wên Wu, 1973, no. 7, pp. 26–27). The vases of 1351 in the Percival David Foundation were made for a temple in China and not for export. The vigorousness and robustness of the Yüan blue-and-white, which are similar in spirit to Buddhist sculptures of the same period, remind one of the spirit of the T’ang Dynasty, in a period when China interacted with the outside world. We know that with the restoration of a native dynasty in early Ming there was a general effort to restore Chinese institutions and practices that had been neglected by the foreign rulers in the previous Yüan Dynasty. The Sung Academy style of painting, the Ma-Hsia school of the Southern Sung in particular, was officially sponsored and revived at the Ming Imperial court.72Cahill, Parting at the Shore, pp. 3–21. What Margaret Medley detected as a change toward a Chinese-oriented taste could very well be a revival of Sung taste. This jar was probably part of this general revival of Sung taste, dateable to the late 14th century, in the early Ming period.

Mae Anna Quan Pang, Curator, Department of Asian Art, National Gallery of Victoria (in 1980). 

Acknowledgements

For assistance in this article, I would like to acknowledge the Library staff of the National Gallery of Victoria, Jean Oberhansli for discussions on technical aspects, and John Guy and Beryl Hill for editing. Most of all, I wish to thank Sherry Quan Ng for making available to me research materials from overseas. 

 

Notes

1          Catalogue of the Dr R. A. Fox Collection of Oriental Art Treasures, Sydney, 1927, p. 35, no. 296. 

2          ibid., p. 1. 

3          Memoranda to Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria from the Director, Bernard Hall, dated 21 September, 11 October, and 20 October 1927 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). The blue-and-white wine jar was bought for 76 guineas. 

4          Letters from Mr Frank Godden, Adelaide, to one of the Trustees of the Felton Bequests’ Committee, dated 26 April, 14 May 1927, and 10 September 1928; The Argus, 19 and 30 March and 3 April 1928 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). 

5          Letter from the Chief Librarian and Secretary of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, to the Secretary of the British Museum, London, dated 4 February 1929 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). 

6          Letter from R. L. Hobson to the Chief Librarian and Secretary of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, dated 11 April 1929 (National Gallery of Victoria Archives). 

7          James Cahill, Chinese Painting, Skira, Geneva, 1960, pp. 79–87. 

8          ibid., pp. 99–123. 

9          Chinese Art Treasures: A Selected Group of Objects from the Chinese National Palace Museum and the Chinese National Central Museum Exhibited in the United States, 1961–1962, Skira, Geneva, 1961, p. 124, no. 57. 

10         Ts’un, literally meaning ‘wrinkles’, is a term for brushstrokes which give rocks and mountains three-dimensional structural form and surface texture, but it is usually interpreted as ‘texture strokes’. The so-called ‘axe-cut’ texture strokes are brushstrokes in broad sweeps of ink, applied with the brush held in an inclined position. The resemblance of the resulting multi-faceted surface of the rock to that of a block of wood hewn with an axe accounts for the name of ‘axe-cut’ stroke. See Cahill, Chinese Painting, p. 40. 

11         James Cahill, Hills Beyond A River: Chinese Painting of the Yüan Dynasty, 1279–1368, Weatherhill, New York, 1976, colour plate 4. 

12         ibid., pp. 74–75. 

13         id., Parting at the Shore: Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368–1580, Weatherhill, New York, 1978, pp. 45–53. 

14         It resembles paintings by Wang E., a native of Chekiang Province and a Che school follower, who was active in the Ming Imperial court of the Hung-chih period (1488–1505), and was called by the Hung-chih emperor ‘the Ma Yüan of our time’. See Cahill, Parting at the Shore, p. 125, fig. 52. 

15         ibid., pp. 128–34. 

16         id., The Art of Southern Sung China, Asia Society, New York, 1962. 

17         ibid. 

18         The pine tree is also a symbol of longevity. See C. A. S. Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives, Dover, New York, 1976, pp. 101–2, 226, 192, 327. 

19         Metal ewers of the Sung Dynasty have been excavated in Shansi and Szechwan Provinces. See ‘Shansi Hsiang-fen-hsien Ch’u-t’u Sung-tai T’ung-ch’i’ (Bronze Objects of the Sung Dynasty Excavated from the Hsiang-fen Prefecture of Shansi Province), Wên Wu, 1977, no. 12, pp. 89–90. The bronze ewer illustrated in fig. 4, p. 90, of this article is more angular in shape than the one depicted in our blue-and-white landscape. 

20         See Margaret Medley, The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics, Phaidon, Oxford, 1976, p. 185, fig. 137, blue-and-white ewer excavated from Pao-tin, Hopei Province, 14th century; id., Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, Faber, London, 1974, plate 50B, copper-red ewer, Brooklyn Museum of Art; Oriental Ceramics, vol. 7, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1964, black-and-white illustration no. 56, Lung-ch’üan celadon ewer, Yüan Dynasty, 13th–14th century. 

21         See paintings attributed to the Southern Sung period in Cahill, The Art of Southern Sung China

22         Τz’ǔ-chou is a name designating stonewares of a great diversity that were produced for the everyday use of the common people from the late T’ang times (618–906) to at least the end of the 14th century. The chief centres of Τz’ǔ-chou ware production were in the provinces of Honan and Hopei in the north, but excavations in China since 1949 have shown that these wares were widely produced throughout China. See Medley, The Chinese Potter, pp. 123–44, and Sherman E. Lee and Wai-kam Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yüan Dynasty (1279–1368), Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1968, p. 11. 

23         Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols, catalogue no. 55. Also see Oriental Ceramics, vol. 12, colour plate 30, pp. 303–4. Our blue-and-white jar also resembles this jar in shape, which tapers gracefully from the relatively high shoulder towards the waist. 

24         For example, a vase from the Dreyfus collection illustrated in Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols, catalogue no. 50. A Japanese source reports that vases such as the one from the Dreyfus collection were excavated from a Liao Dynasty tomb of 1018. See ibid., p. 12. 

25         See Roderick Whitfield, ‘Ts’ǔ-chou Pillows with Painted Decoration’, in Margaret Medley (ed.), Chinese Painting and the Decorative Style, A colloquy held 23–25 June 1975, Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia, no. 5, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, 1975, pp. 74–94. 

26         Medley, The Chinese Potter, p. 130, fig. 92. 

27         id., Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 32. 

28         ibid., pp. 31–33. This point of view could be challenged by some scholars who interpret the term ‘Ch’ing-pai’, which is mentioned in T’ao-ch’i lüeh, as meaning blue-and-white porcelain in that particular context, rather than porcelain with a bluish clear glaze as interpreted by most Western authorities. There is still much controversy over the Chinese term, ‘Ch’ing-pai’, which also appears in Southern Sung (1127–1279) texts. The term ‘Ch’ing-pai’ consists of two characters – ‘ch’ing’ meaning either blue or green, and ‘pai’ meaning white. The term is normally used together with ‘Τz’ǔ-chi’, meaning ceramic ware, to form the phrase ‘Ch’ing-pai tz’ǔ-chi’, which can have a number of possible interpretations due to the contextual nature of the Chinese language: (a) green wares and white wares, i.e. celadon wares and white wares; (b) blue-and-white wares, i.e. porcelain decorated with blue and white designs under a transparent glaze; and (c) white wares with a bluish (or greenish) glaze, called Ying-ch’ing wares since Ch’ing times (1644–1912). Among the known existing texts, the full and more precise descriptive term of blue-and-white porcelain, ‘Ch’ing-pai hua tz’ǔ-chi’, meaning porcelain decorated with blue and white designs, was not used until Wang Ta-yüan’s Tao-l-chih-lüeh (Descriptions of Island Foreigners) of 1379 in the Yüan dynasty. See S. T. Yeo and Jean Martin, ‘Chinese Blue and White Ceramics – A Brief Introduction’, and Grace Wong, ‘Chinese Blue-and-White Porcelain and Its Place in the Maritime Trade of China’, in Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, Arts Orientalis, Singapore, 1978, pp. 20–24, 53–66. 

29         Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 32. The David vases came directly from China in 1928. Each vase bears a long inscription on the neck, dated 1351, stating that the vases, together with an incense burner, were presented to a temple by Chang Wen-chih from the Prefecture of Hsin-chou, which has been identified with the modern Kuang-hsin, about 70 miles south-east of Ching-tê Chên, Kiangsi Province, which became the centre of ceramic production in China after the Yüan period (1280–1368). See Margaret Medley, Illustrated Catalogue of Porcelains Decorated in Underglaze Blue and Copper Red in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, 1963, pp. 46–48, and Oriental Ceramics, vol. 7, p. 310, colour plate 39. At one time the early mid-14th-century date of these vases was reluctantly accepted by scholars because they seemed to stand alone in their complexity of design and decoration. But they sparked off a great deal of interest in the study of 14th-century blue-and-white in the West. The close resemblance of these vases to some of the pieces in the collections in the Near East: (a) the blue-and-white porcelains in the Topkapu Sarayi Museum at Istanbul, known to have been in the West since Ming times (1368–1644); and (b) those in the large collection formed by Shah Abbas the Great, which he presented in 1611 to the Shrine of Shaikh Safi at Ardebil, and now in Teheran, had the two-fold effect of establishing the authenticity of the 1351 vases and dating the Near Eastern pieces as belonging to the 14th century. See Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White, Faber, London, 1964, pp. xv-xvi, 12. 

30         Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 33. 

31         ibid., pp. 31–34. 

32         Since 1949 isolated examples of early blue-and-white, including sherds attributed to the Sung Dynasty (960–1279), have been found in various parts of central and southern China. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, ‘Shih-t’an Ch’ing-hua-tz’ǔ-chi ti ch’i-yüan Yü T’ê-tien’ (A Preliminary Study into the Origin and Characteristics of Early Blue-and-White Porcelain), Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74; Chao Kuang-lin, ‘Chiai-shao Chi-chien Yüan-tai Ch’ing-hua-tz’ǔ-chi’ (An Introduction to a Few Pieces of Yuan Dynasty Blue-and-White Porcelains), Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, p. 52; Fêng Hsien-ming, ‘Tz’ǔ-chi Ch’ien-shuo’ (A General Discussion on Ceramics), Wên Wu, 1959, no. 9, p. 81. An isolated piece of blue-and-white sherd, decorated with geometric design in a slightly bluish colour and under a clear glaze, was discovered from the ancient T’ang Dynasty (618–906) site of Yang-chou in Kiangsu Province in 1975. It was recovered, with a copper coin datable to 713–41, in a previously undisturbed stratum which has been dated to the late T’ang Dynasty. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74; and ‘Yang-chou T’ang-ch’êng l-chih 1975 Nien Kao-ku Kung-tso Chien-pao’ (A Summary Report on the Archaeological Work Done on the Ancient T’ang Site of Yang-chou in 1975), Wên Wu, 1977, no. 9, pp. 16–30, plate 2, fig. I. In the Fung Ping-shan Museum of the University of Hong Kong a white porcellaneous tripod bowl of depressed globular shape, which is similar in form to the typical T’ang three-colour ware, is decorated with a series of large dots and dashes in underglaze blue under a transparent glaze. See Philip Wen-chee Mao, ‘Early “Blue and White”’, Oriental Art, Autumn 1977, vol. XXVIII, no. 3, pp. 333–36. The author of this article believes that this jar is a specimen of early blue-and-white of the T’ang Dynasty, possibly late T’ang, made in Kung-hsien in northern Honan. For an excellent comprehensive summary of discoveries of blue-and-white, which include those found in China before 1949 and outside China in the Philippines, see Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, pp. 20–24. 

33         According to the article by Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74, the blue-and-white sherd that was found in the ancient T’ang site of Yang-chou in Kiangsu Province in 1975 resembles wares from kilns at Ch’ang-sha, Hunan Province, in both body and glaze. 

34         Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, pp. 74–77, 11, plate 7; Fêng Hsien-ming, ‘Ngo-kuo T’ao-tz’ǔ Fa-chan Chung Ti Chi-ko Wen-t’i-Ts’ung Chung-kuo Ch’u-t’u Wên-wu Chan-lan T’ao-tz’ǔ Chan-p’in T’an-ch’i’ (A Few Problems in the Ceramic Development of Our Country – Discussion of the Ceramic Objects in the Exhibition of Chinese Archaeological Discoveries), Wên Wu, 1973, no. 7, pp. 20–29, p. 14; id., Wên Wu, 1959, no. 9, pp. 81, 70. For a summary in English see the Introduction by Sir John Addis in the Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Related Underglaze Red, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1975, pp. 9–10. 

35         Fêng Hsien-ming, Wên Wu, 1973, no. 7, pp. 25–26. According to this article, only about 29 Yüan Dynasty blue-and-white porcelains had been found in China from 1949 until then. They were found in hoards, tombs, and residential sites, and a few early Ming Dynasty tombs dated to the late 14th and early 15th century. No dated epitaphs were found in any of the Yüan Dynasty tombs. 

36         According to Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pp. xv–xvi, 14th-century blue-and-white porcelain is unrepresented in the Chinese imperial collection and is apparently unknown among connoisseurs in traditional China, although the classical 15th-century types of blue-and-white were fully known to Chinese collectors. 14-century blue-and-white has been identified and classified entirely by the efforts of Western scholars in the period pre-1949, and since the 1930s. Among them are the monumental works on the Near Eastern collections by John Pope in the early 1950s: J. Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White: A Group of Chinese Porcelains in the Topkapu Sarayi Muzesi, Istanbul, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, Occasional Papers, vol. 2, no. 1, 1952; id., Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, 1956. Among others are Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White; and Margaret Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware

37         Some of the bottle-vases of the Yüan period had their foot-ring, although not the base, luted onto the body. See Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 36; and J. Pope, ‘Two Chinese Porcelains from the Umezawa Collection’, Far Eastern Ceramic Bulletin, 41, June 1959, pp. 15–22. 

38         Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White, plate 27. A view of the bottom ring of the vase is shown in Takatoshi Misugi, Chūkinto No Chūgoku Jiki (Chinese Porcelains in Middle Eastern Collections), Gakugei Shorin, Tokyo, 1972, vol. 2: Topukapi Kyūden No Chūgoku Jiki (Chinese Porcelain Collection at the Topkapi Sarayi Museum), p. 93, fig. 53. 

39         Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 52. 

40         On the general characteristics of the potting and glazing of Yüan blue-and-white porcelains see Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, pp. 76–77; Chao Kuang-lin, Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, pp. 53–54; Sun Ying-chou, ‘Yüan Ming Ch’ing Τz’ǔ-chi ti Chien-ting’ (A Study on Porcelains of the Yüan, Ming, Ch’ing Periods), Wên Wu. 1966, no. 3, p. 49. 

41         On the general characteristics of the cobalt blue decoration of Yüan blue-and-white porcelain see the excellent and perceptive analysis in Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White, pp. 24–29; and Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, pp. 59–81. Also see Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pp. 9–20. 

42         Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, pp. 33–34. 

43         Sun Ying-chou, Wên Wu, 1966, no. 3, pp. 49–50; id., Wên Wu, 1965, no. 11, p. 15; id., ‘Ngo Tui Tsao-ch’i Ch’ing-hua Yüan-liao ti Ch’u-pu K’an-fa’ (My Preliminary View on the Blue Cobalt of Early Blue and White Porcelain), Wên Wu, 1959, no. 11, pp. 65, 68, 70. He does not give examples of the forty per cent of Yüan blue-and-white that is decorated with local cobalts. On imported cobalt, he points out the usual characteristics such as having a rich deep blue colour, being unstable and creating a running and uneven effect, having rusty spots, and being unsuitable for fine drawing. He also says that sometimes both imported and local cobalts were used to decorate the same pot. What Sun Ying-chou tells us is quite different from the general view that local cobalts found in China contained a large proportion of manganese impurity which was responsible for a greyish appearance in the blue, in contrast to the purer blue colour of the imported blue from the Near East which was free of manganese, and that the Chinese potters did not succeed in purifying the local cobalt by empirical methods and producing colours as fine as those obtained from imported cobalts until the 17th century. See Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pp. 15–16. Cobalt ore has been reported to have been found in various parts of southern China – in the provinces of Kiangsi, Chekiang, Fukien, Yunnan, Kwangtung and Kwangsi. See Chao Kuang-lin, Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, p. 52. One wonders if our blue-and-white jar was made in a local kiln in Chekiang Province, the homeland of the Southern Sung landscape of the Ma-Hsia style, where kilns of the Yüan Dynasty and blue-and-white sherds of what might belong to the Sung period have been found. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 74. On the technical aspects of the jar, I feel that more research and study is required into the potting of the jar, the properties of the body, glaze, and cobalt blue, and the different local kilns. 

44         See the description of the making of blue-and-white by Père d’Entrecolles, a Jesuit missionary who lived in the early eighteenth century in Ching-tê Chên in the southern province of Kiangsi, the main centre of manufacture of blue-and-white in China; quoted by Garner, Oriental Blue and White, p. 3, pp. 5–6. 

45         The wave pattern is interpreted by Kikutaro Saito as a symbol of the waves in the East Sea of Mt P’eng-lai where Taoist immortals are believed to live. See Kikutaro Saito, ‘Gen-sometsuke-ko’ (A Study of Yüan Blue and White and Yüan Drama in the Middle of the Fourteenth Century), Kobijutsu, no. 18, 1967. 

46         Illustrated in Margaret Medley, The Chinese Potter, p. 179, fig. 131. 

47         On the symbolic meanings of the eight treasures see Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism, pp. 157, 158. 

48         See Pope, Fourteenth-Century Blue-and-White, pp. 30–48, on the painter’s repertory of 14th-century blue-and-white porcelains. 

49         Oriental Ceramics, vol. II, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1978, p. 336, colour plates 70, 71. 

50         ibid., p. 336, colour plate 69. 

51         See Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols, figs. 1, 2. and cat. nos 2–5. 

52         For examples of Yüan blue-and-white decorations see Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, plates 26A–34B, 40–44B. 

53         See references in note 32 above. 

54         Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, pp. 46–62. id., ‘The Yuan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, Ars Orientalis, vol. 9, 1973, pp. 89–101. 

55         Oriental Ceramics, vol. 3, Museum Pusat, Jakarta: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1977, p. 308, colour plate 46. As with our jar, the glaze shows irregular pitting. The plate is assigned to Yüan or Ming Dynasty, 14th century. See ibid., p. 308. However, a plate, which has almost identical decorations in underglaze red, is attributed by Margaret Medley to the late 14th century, early Ming. See Medley, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, plate 2, fig. 8, pp. 94, 100. 

56         ibid., vol. 9, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm: Kodansha, Tokyo, 1976, p. 307, colour plate 75. 

57         In the summary to his study of the blue-and-white porcelain from the Ardebil Shrine, John Pope points out this change in taste for greater refinement, ‘Some time about the turn of the century, soon before or after the year 1400, the technique of the potter underwent a change which yielded wares of much greater refinement …’ See Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, pp. 141–42. 

58         On the symbolic meanings of the ‘ju-i’ pattern see Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism, pp. 238–39. 

59         Exhibition of Archaeological Finds of the People’s Republic of China, Melbourne, 1977, pp. 122, 123, cat. no. 226. It has an underglaze red lid. Chao Kuang-lin in ‘Introduction to a Few Pieces of Yüan Dynasty Blue and White’, Wên Wu, 1972, no. 8, p. 52, dates it to late Yüan. According to Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, during the period from about 1360–75 many of the designs began to be executed in exactly the same way in both underglaze blue and copper red; see p. 46. Also see Medley, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, Ars Orientalis, vol. 9, 1973, pp. 89–101. Pots of the late 14th century also tend to be of very large size, heavy, thick-walled and strongly made; see Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, p. 59. Other examples of this type of wine jar are located in Japan, the British Museum, and the Baur Foundation in Geneva; see ibid., p. 60, plate 53. 

60         For the plates in the Palace Museum, Peking, see Fêng Hsien-ming, ‘Shih-szu Shih-chi Ch’ing-hua Ta-p’an Huo Yüan-tai Ch’ing-hua Tz’ǔ-chi ti T’ê-tien’ (Special Characteristics of 14th Century Large Blue-and-White Dishes and Yüan Dynasty Blue-and-White Porcelains), Wên Wu, 1959, no. 1, pp. 56, 52. Fêng attributes the plates to the 14th century of the Yüan period, although he finds them rare and unusual for blue-and-white porcelains of that period. See ibid., p. 56. For the plate in the Palace Museum, Taipei, see Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, pl. 36B. This plate, which is very similar in decoration to those in the Peking Museum, is attributed by Medley to the transitional period from late Yüan to early Ming, 1360–75; see ibid., p. 48. It is interesting that these late 14th-century blue-and-white dishes are found in the Imperial collection, but not those of the mid-14th-century style. It is possible that these were made in the Hung-wu period (1368–99) in early Ming for the court, and hence kept in the collection. One Chinese source tells us that in the second year of the reign of Hung-wu, 1369, early Ming, an Imperial kiln was established in Ch’ing-tê Chên, Kiangsi Province. See Chao Kuang-lin and Wang Ch’un-Ch’êng, Wên Wu, 1979, no. 8, p. 75. 

61         For example the wave patterns on the rim of a blue-and-white basin in the National Gallery of Victoria collection, which is illustrated in Garner, Oriental Blue and White, pl. 228. 

62         The mythical animal Suan-ni is said to be a lion or a wild horse which could run for 500 li (Chinese miles). See Tz’ǔ Yüan, Taipei, 1969, p. 971. 

63         Robert Treat Paine, Jr. ‘Chinese Ceramic Pillows from Collections in Boston and Vicinity’, Far Eastern Ceramic Bulletin, vol. VII, no. 3 (Serial no. 31) September 1955, pp. 944–45, plate 27. 

64         Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, Arts Orientalis, Singapore, 1978, pp. 44, fig. 22. 

65         Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Related Underglaze Red, Hong Kong, 1975, p. 63, cat. no. 12, p. 27. 

66         Oriental Ceramics, vol. 3, Museum Pusat, Jakarta, p. 308, colour plate 49. 

67         Yeo and Martin (eds), Chinese Blue and White Ceramics, pp. 104–7. 

68         Medley, The Chinese Potter, p. 204, fig. 150. 

69         Cahill, Parting at the Shore, colour plate 7, pp. 128–32. 

70         Osvald Siren, Chinese Painting, Leading Masters and Principles, Lund Humphries, London, 1958, vol. VI, plate 160, and vol. VII, p. 203. 

71         Medley, ‘The Yüan-Ming Transformation in the Blue and Red Decorated Porcelains of China’, Ars Orientalis, vol. 9, 1973, pp. 89–91. The question of patronage of Yüan blue-and-white is an intriguing question. Although there are elements of foreign influence in some of the Yuan blue-and-white decorations, most of the decorative motifs could be related to Sung ceramics, particularly the Tz’ǔ-chou wares from Chi-chou, which is near Ching-tê Chên (centre of ceramic production since Yüan) in Kiangsi Province. (See Fêng Hsien-ming, Wên Wu, 1973, no. 7, pp. 26–27). The vases of 1351 in the Percival David Foundation were made for a temple in China and not for export. The vigorousness and robustness of the Yüan blue-and-white, which are similar in spirit to Buddhist sculptures of the same period, remind one of the spirit of the T’ang Dynasty, in a period when China interacted with the outside world. 

72         Cahill, Parting at the Shore, pp. 3–21.