The striking black glazes of Jian wares can show various different effects, when air bubbles in the glaze burst, leaving a pattern of streaks, compared to hare’s fur, or spots compared to oil spots, that can range in tone from rust brown to metallic blue. The Huizong Emperor, one of China’s greatest imperial art lovers, patrons and tea connoisseurs, was a devotee of Fujianese tea as well as Jian ware bowls. In Daguan chalun [A Discourse on Tea in the Daguan Period] of 1107, he commented that “the desirable colour of a tea bowl is dark black and the best examples display clear and straight fur pattern of jade colour, since it highlights the colour of tea.” Today in China ceramic scholars classify the hare’s fur pattern of Jian wares as golden, silvery, yellow, grey and jade according to their colour, and it is believed that the most precious is jade-like creamy white streaks that are thin and straight, as briefly discussed in Li Jiazhi, ed., Zhongguo kexue jishu shi: taoci juan [History of science and technology in China: ceramics], Beijing, 1998, p. 190.
With its hare’s fur pattern in a colour like white jade, the current piece is very unusual and it is very rare to find a Jian ware bowl of similar pattern. A fragment with comparable white-coloured hare’s fur, and inscribed with jin zhan [bowl for presentation], unearthed from the Jian ware kiln site in Jianyang, was included in the exhibition Karamono tenmoku. Fukken shō Kenyō shutsudo tenmoku to Nihon densei no tenmoku. [Chinese tenmoku. Excavated examples from Fujian and heirloom works from Japan], Museum of Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, and MOA Art Museum, Atami, 1994, cat. no. 46. A bowl displayed in a newly opened permanent exhibition of the National Palace Museum Southern Branch in Jiayi, Taiwan has a similar jin zhan mark, but its hare’s fur is of a russet colour, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Liao Paoshow, ed., The Far-Reaching Fragrance of Tea - The Art and Culture of Tea in Asia, Taipei, 2015, cat. no. I-13. A bowl in a major exhibition on black wares has streaks of comparable colour to the present lot, but the streaks are wider, see Guo Xuelei, ed., Xuan se zhi mei: Zhongguo lidai heiyou ciqi zhenpin [The beauty of black: rare pieces of black-glazed ceramics from various Chinese dynasties], Shenzhen Museum, 2012, cat. no. 61.
The current lot is related to a few prestigious Jian ware tea bowls despite differences in colour or streaks of their hare’s fur pattern. Examples include one from the Collections of Peter Hariolf Plesch (1918-2013) and Roger Pilkington (1928-1969), sold in our London rooms, 17th March, 1959, lot 7, and in these rooms 6th April 2016, lot 12; one included in exhibition catalogues Chinese Arts of the Sung and Yuan Periods, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1961, cat. no. 270; Temmoku, Tokugawa Art Museum and Nezu Art Museum, Tokyo, 1979, cat. no. 15; Special Exhibition of Chinese Ceramics, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1994, cat. no. 199, illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, vol. I, pl. 675; Kōyama Fujiō, Tōji taikei [Outlines of ceramics], vol. 38: Temmoku, Tokyo, 1974, pls 93 and 94, sold in our London rooms, 11th May 2011, lot 7; and one from the Linyushanren Collection sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 2nd December 2015, lot 2820.
Compare also a Jian ware tea bowl with oil spot markings from the Kuroda family collection, sold as part of the Linyushanren Collection at Christie’s New York, 15th September 2016, lot 707.