Asian Antiques Appraisals And Valuations

What Is Jian Ware?

Jian ware is a type of Chinese stoneware that was primarily used for domestic purposes during the Song dynasty (960-1279) and into the early 14th century. It was named after its place of origin, Jian’an and Jianyang in Fujian province, China. The clay used to make Jian ware is of a hard and coarse grain, and is typically covered with a thick, dark glaze that is colored with iron oxide. The glaze usually stops short of the outer base, leaving a thick welt, and tends to pool thickly on the inside of the vessel. The glaze can vary in color, with the most prized glazes resembling the streaking of a hare’s fur, the mottling of partridge markings, or the silvery splattering of oil spots.

Teabowls are the most common form of Jian ware that survives today. These teabowls were highly esteemed by Chan (Zen) Buddhist monks in the Fujian region and were even carried back to Japan by Japanese monks who visited China to study Chan Buddhism. In fact, until the late 16th century, Jian ware or temmoku ware, was the preferred type of tea bowl for the highly ritualized Japanese tea ceremony.

Jian ware is considered to be one of the most important and high-quality Chinese ceramics of the Song dynasty. The production of Jian ware was a highly skilled and labor-intensive process that required a great deal of expertise and experience. The clay used to make Jian ware was sourced from specific areas in Fujian province and was carefully selected for its color and texture. The pieces were then shaped by hand or on a potter’s wheel, and were decorated with intricate patterns and designs.

The glaze used on Jian ware is one of its most distinctive features. The glaze was made by mixing iron oxide with a glassy frit, and was then applied to the pieces in a thick layer. The glaze was then fired in a reduction kiln, which created the dark, purplish-black or reddish-brown color that is characteristic of Jian ware. The glaze also tended to pool in the bottom of the vessel, which is why the base is usually left unglazed.

Jian ware was primarily used for domestic purposes such as serving tea, food, and storing liquids. The most common form of Jian ware that survives today is the teabowls, which were used by Chan (Zen) Buddhist monks in the Fujian region, and were considered highly esteemed. The teabowls were carried back to Japan by Japanese monks who visited China to study Chan Buddhism. In fact, until the late 16th century, Jian ware or temmoku ware, was the preferred type of tea bowl for the highly ritualized Japanese tea ceremony.

In addition to teabowls, Jian ware also produced other forms like plates, bowls, jars, and vases. All these forms were known for their simplicity, elegance and strength. The dark, almost mysterious glaze, combined with the strength and durability of the stoneware, made Jian ware a highly prized possession among the elite classes of the Song dynasty.

In modern times, Jian ware is highly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs of Chinese ceramics, and the original pieces from the Song dynasty can fetch high prices at auction. The legacy of Jian ware continues to influence ceramics production in China and abroad, and is considered an important part of Chinese cultural heritage.


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