Detail View: The AMICA Library: Jar

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: 
Full view
Creation Date: 
Tang period, c. early 9th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Stoneware with glaze
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
North China
H. 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm); D. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Stonewares covered with black, dark brown, or very dark blue glazes were produced through northern China during the Tang period (618-906). Black glazes appear to have been used primarily to decorate common objects rather than those intended for court or as burial goods. Similar glazes continued to be used for household goods during the Northern Song period (960-1127), and stonewares of this type remain difficult to date precisely.

Remnants of an inscription written in black on the base of this cuspidor-shaped jar help to date the piece to about 835 CE, as it provides the year the piece was purchased. The inscription has been translated as 'purchased on the (?) day of the third month, the ninth year of the Taihe.' Written with a brush in a calligraphic style common during the Tang period, the inscription is badly abraded and difficult to read; both 835 and 855 have been suggested as possible readings of the date, although the former is generally accepted by scholars.

The thick, black glaze and the fact that it was inscribed suggest that this jar was considered important. However, its function remains elusive. Although it is in the shape of a cuspidor or spittoon, it is possible that this jar was used in the drinking of tea, perhaps as a receptacle for the leaves that are left behind. Tea drinking was popular in China during the Tang dynasty and this elegant vessel might be an early example of an object that was dedicated to this practice. Most of the well-known tea bowls and other ceramics associated with the drinking of tea in China date to the Song period.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 61.
Related Document Description: 
Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 48, 97.
Related Document Description: 
Mowry, Robert D. 'The Sophistication of Song Dynasty Ceramics.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 399-400.
Related Document Description: 
Willetts, William. Foundations of Chinese Art: From Neolithic Pottery to Modern Architecture. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965, p. 273.
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