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Asian art

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Tea bowl



Jian ware



The tea bowl was made in the Song dynasty (960-1279) in the south-eastern province of Fujian and was a type of stoneware produced in vast quantities for everyday use. Its appeal is in its glaze colour and texture and in the well-potted functional form. These bowls, of which this is an exceptionally fine example, were made near Jianning, in northern Fujian, probably from about the 10th century onwards. They are especially prized by the Japanese for use in the ceremonial drinking of tea which the form and the glaze would have been considered particularly appropriate. The Japanese name 'tenmoku' is thought to be a corruption of Tianmu, a mountain close to Hangzhou from which the ware may have been shipped.

The body material is a dark brown stoneware covered in this example, with a thick, lustrous, dark blue-black glaze streaked with yellow (an effect commonly known as "hare's fur"). The colour is light brown near the mouth, having run thin there, to an extent causing some roughness at the rim. For this reason, the bowls are often metal bound, as with this bowl which has a swaged silver rim. These ferric oxide glazes were very viscous, which is indicated by the flow on the exterior, where the glaze has collected in a heavy roll some distance from the foot.

J.H. Myrtle, AGNSW Quarterly, July 1965.


Other Title

Jian ware tea bowl

Place where the work was made

Fujian Province China



Media category


Materials used

stoneware, tenmoku glaze, silver rim


6.9 x 12.4 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1965


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Jian ware

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Fujian Province

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019

Referenced in 3 publications


Mr V V W Fretwell, Mr L G Harrison, Ivan McMeekin and J. Hepburn Myrtle (Compilators), Chinese ceramics, Sydney, 1965, 21. 36

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The World of Samurai Culture', Sydney, 2003, 210 (colour illus.).

J.H. Myrtle, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Chinese Ceramics', pg.246, Sydney, Jul 1965, 246 (illus.).