The lustrous sky-blue glaze of this bowl, which shows an almost jewel-like gloss, is traditionally considered the most desirable colour of monochrome Jun wares. The simple, well-rounded shape of this piece, with wide open mouth and narrow foot, displays this unctuous, flawless coating to best advantage. One of the ‘Five Classic Wares’ (wu da yao) of the Song dynasty (960-1279), 'Jun' ware was much admired over the centuries by both Chinese and Western connoisseurs for the beautiful depth and intensity of its glaze, which varies from a thick opaque sky blue to brilliant mauves, lavenders and blues. It was discovered in the 1980s that this blue tone was not created by pigments but is actually an optical effect. During firing, the glaze separates into light-scattering droplets of glass and when light passes through this ‘glass emulsion’ the blue spectrum of light is reflected, giving the ware its bright blue colour. The thickness of the glaze is a critical factor in creating these optical blues. It has been thought that this was a consequence of multiple glaze layers, but analyses of sectioned shards done at the kiln sites indicate that only a single layer is applied and that the depth of glaze is attributable to the thick body, as water from the glaze is absorbed by the porous biscuit, resulting in a more substantial covering.
Two slightly smaller bowls of this form and glaze, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, are published in Selection of Jun Ware. The Palace Museum’s Collections and Archaeological Excavation, Beijing, 2013, pls 6 and 7, together with a slightly larger bowl with a more opaque glaze, pl. 8; two bowls from the Meiyintang collection are illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 1, pl. 387 and vol. 3, pl. 1461; one, from the Yang De Tang collection, illustrated in Chūgoku meitō ten: Chūgoku tōji 2000-nen no seika [Exhibition of Chinese pottery: Two thousand years of Chinese ceramics], Tokyo, 1992, cat. no. 42, was sold in our New York rooms, 17th March 2015, lot 85; and another was sold twice at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st June 2011, lot 3501, and 1st June 2016, lot 3118.
The present bowl was in the collection of Chen Chiang-Wei (1907-1997), who was the General Manager of PetroChina, before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and serving as a cultural adviser in Thailand for 11 years. Upon his return to Taiwan, he accepted an advisory position at the National Palace Museum, and became a researcher at the National Museum of History. Also a philanthropist, Chen generously donated part of his personal collection to the National Palace Museum in 1971.