In its form and decoration this vessel is a curious mixture of influences: while its general form appears to derive from ceramic inkstones made from as early as the Tang dynasty, the shaped apertures that reveal eight Buddhist figures, are reminiscent of the niches seen in Buddhist pagodas. The Buddhist character of this piece suggests that it was probably used in a Buddhist context.
Vessels of this form were made as early as the Song dynasty at the Yaozhou kilns in Shaanxi province, such as a piece attributed to the Song period, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 96; and another recovered from the Yaozhou kiln complex Huangbaozhen, Tongchuan county, illustrated in Yaozhou yao/ Yaozhou Kiln, Xi’an, 1992, p. 60 bottom.
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