Particularly attractive for its silvery and coppery streaks and glossy glaze, this bowl is notable for its elegant shallow form with splayed sides. Streaked glazes such as the present were described in the 1388 edition of Cao Zhao’s Ge gu yao lun
[Essential criteria of antiquities] as ‘black in colour and unctuous with spots like the yellow fur of the hare’, and were favoured by tea connoisseurs in China and Japan. Bowls of this type are products of the Jianyang kilns in Fujian province, which were renowned for creating vessels that were uniquely suitable for drinking tea as the fine foam of the whisked powdered tea contrasted with the dark glaze of the vessel. The thickness of the glaze and porous body also helped keep the tea warm while protecting the hands of the drinker from the hot beverage. From literature it is known that the best quality Jian bowls were carefully selected as tribute from Fujian to the court, while numerous Jian bowls were taken to Japan by Buddhist monks who spent time in Chinese monasteries. ‘Temmoku’ is the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Tianmu’, a mountain in Zhejiang province, north of Jianyang, where monastic communities favoured the use of Jian bowls for tea drinking.
A Jian bowl of similar shape is illustrated in James Marshall Plumer, Temmoku. A Study of the Ware of Chien, Tokyo, 1972, pl. 40; and another was offered in these rooms, 19th June 2002, lot 24. Compare also a bowl of slightly larger size and modelled with a lipped rim, from the collection of Mrs Myron S. Falk Jr., included in the exhibition Hare’s Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers, Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, 1996, cat. no. 81.