Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Song Dynasty Teaware

I was having an accident free week and Michael deemed it safe enough to pull out some pieces from his collection of Song Dynasty ceramics for my education. Michael uses words with great economy and he prefers to teach by showing. He did turn down my offers to help him carry the antiques to the table and suggested I stand perfectly still until everything had been safely settled.

A scattering of stars against a deep ebony glaze. The beauty of this tea bowl lies in it's deceptive simplicity. A sophisticated expression of muted form and minimal color that characterizes many Song ceramics. Pieces like these are understated and easily overlooked by untrained eyes. The bowl fit perfectly to the curve of my hand. The surface was cool and inviting to touch and I marveled at the natural and seemingly effortless styling.
The rich glaze is allowed to pool, thick and luxurious towards the base.
The naked foot adds a lovely and thoughtful contrast.

Tea bowl next to a tea or wine cup.

These might be the smallest cups from the Song Dynasty I've ever seen.These cups are very dear to Winnie's heart and still in use. If you catch her in the right circumstance, you may be lucky enough to sip tea from them one day. Now if only there were a tea old enough...

This pale beauty is a cup with connected saucer. Michael and Winnie wanted to show me these early influences that shaped the modern gaiwan. Since we rarely use the saucers that come with most gaiwans (except for display), it was interesting to see how long cups have been married to saucers and even fused into a single piece. Cups and stands were also made into separate components.
How to drink out of one these works of art? One hand grasps the saucer and carries the cup toward the mouth. The other hand screens the tilted cup and bottom half of the face while you drink.
With almost modern looking silhouettes and beautiful finishes, these works seem to exist out of time.
My communion with the past was at an end and Michael carefully put the ceramics back, away from harm's reach. Seeing the despondent look on my face, he said, "Cheer up. There's still so much more you have to see."


Salsero said...

Nice post, good stuff. We all learn when Michael and Winnie show you something.


toki said...

the small tea cups are to die for... So rare to see it in these sizes, specially 2000 yrs ago, Chinese are drink powered tea. Live and learn! What an amazing showcase. Thanks again. Tok

yumcha said...

Thanks for the great comments. As usual, Toki brings up an excellent point. The Song Dynasty saw the emergence of powdered tea that was whisked and served in bowls. It's this tradition that influenced Japanese matcha and matcha bowls. I was wondering if anyone would see the connection. That's also why the smaller cups are so rarely seen from this era.

Unknown said...

Very nice post. The tea gallery has many treasures inclding it's people. Keep posting!

Unknown said...

P.S. I'm riding the train back from New York and I can still taste the tea. (Yes. I did brush my teeth today :P)

Unknown said...

I'm jealous. That's all I can say.

Unknown said...

I found that the "cup with connected saucer" is acually a cup holder, the tea bowl is placed ontop of the "cup". it can be seen in many song dynasty painting.