Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Tea Bowl


Four de Jian


Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279)


Tea Bowl


Stoneware, iron oxide glaze, metal rim


7.5 cm (h.), 12.2 cm (diam.)


Gift of Lord Strathcona and family, inv. 1927.Ed.3


Archeology and World Cultures

During the Tang dynasty (618-906), tea-drinking became an important activity of the Chinese court and the literati. Association with Buddhist and Daoist beliefs eventually elevated the experience to near-mystical levels. The most coveted tea bowls came from the southern kilns of Fujian province, during the Southern Song dynasty. This deep conical bowl on a straight foot is a typical example. The thick, lustrous brown glaze that forms a finely streaked pattern as it runs from the rim and gathers into a large teardrop just before the unglazed foot is a classic example of “hare’s fur” glaze. This type of tea bowl was highly favoured by devotees of the tea ceremony in Japan, where it was known as temmoku ware (from Tianmu, a complex of Buddhist monasteries in Zhejiang). The main users were Zen monks and disciples, who saw in its rustic simplicity and unstudied glaze effects a mirror of their faith. Some of the many tea bowls that were exported to Japan during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries acquired an almost sacred status because of their connection to famous Zen tea masters over the centuries.

Add a touch of culture to your inbox
Subscribe to the Museum newsletter

Bourgie Hall Newsletter sign up