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Splashes of ColorSpecial Exhibition of Chun Ware from the Collection of the National Palace MuseumSpecial Exhibition of Chun Ware from the Collection of the National Palace Museum
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Introduction


  Chun ware porcelain is famous for the color of its glazes. The glaze colors used on the majority of Chun wares, such as vessels, incense burners, bowls, and plates in the National Palace Museum collection, are bluish-green, greenish-blue, and sky blue. Copper red coloring pigment was applied on some green or blue glaze bases in order to create a visual effect like the glow of the sunset. The richness of the glaze colors of objects like planters and pot stands was beyond imagination. Two different colors, hues, or tones on both the inside and the outside of the vessel occurred frequently. Ancient scholars thus referred to the glaze on Chun ware as "art by accident". Since the Ming dynasty, the literati have commented regularly on Chun glaze, as in Kao Lien's Tsun-sheng pa-chien (Eight Discouves on a Healthful Life Style) (1591) where he used terms such as cinnabar-red, shallot-green, and eggplant-purple to describe the brilliant glaze on Chun ware. The predominant colors of the Museum's Chun ware collection are green, blue, purple and red. The variety in levels of tone in the same hue and the mixture of the different colors in the wares is also an important aspect of this collection. The work "Inverted bell-shaped planter with sky-blue and rose-purple glaze" is a good example of the above technique where specks of light blue and rose red appear on the sky blue glaze base, while copper red forms a ribbon-like pattern on the rim of the ware.

   The question as to whether or not Chun ware was made during the Northern Sung dynasty has always confused researchers in this field. The theory that Chun ware was indeed produced during the Northern Sung (960-1127) dynasty originated during the late Ming ( ca. 16-17th c. ), when scholars identified five major wares--Ting, Ju, Kuan, Ko, and Chun. In publications such as the Nan-yao pi-chi (The Notebook of Nan Ware), T'ao-Shu (The Theory of Ceramic), and Ching-te-chen t'ao-lu (The Ceramic Record of Ching-te-chen), Chun was referred to as a product of the Northern Sung dynasty (960-1279). The need to re-evaluate this analysis was proposed in 1975, when there was new evidence unearthed from Yu County in Honan Province suggesting that Chun ware may have been made during another time period. The structure of the kilns, the casting mold, and unearthed items from this site have raised many yet unanswered questions. The confirmation of the chronology of Chun ware is still ambiguous and difficult to attain. Until convincing archaeological evidence has been excavated, Chun ware will not be classified as a product made during the Northern Sung dynasty. Unlike previous exhibitions of Chun ware, some of the displayed items in this exhibition have yet to be conclusively dated and will therefore not be labeled as a product of the Sung dynasty ( 960-1279 ).

  The Chun ware collection of the National Palace Museum includes utilitarian wares, such as vessels, bowls, plates, and incense burners, as well as planters, pot stands and a tsun vase. The above works can be identified as pieces that were fired in the Chin (1115-1234) or Yuan (1271-1368) dynasty according to the observation of Chun ware excavated from ware cellars, kiln sites and dated tombs. Documents from the Ming (1368-1644) and Ch'ing (1644-1911) dynasties refer to Yu County as the origin of Chun ware production. The discovery of most of these cellars and kilns containing Chun ware in Honan Province supports this assertion. In order to deliver a more effective viewing experience for the audience, a map of cellar and kiln sites has been prepared. Shards of Chun ware that have been recovered in Lin-ju, Pao-feng, Ho-pi, Yeh-chu-kou, and Liu-chia-men in Honan Province have been put on display. Through observing the shards, and comparing the colors of the glazes, viewers will be able to distinguish the difference between the glaze colors from different places and thus appreciate the diversity and beauty of Chun ware.

   Chun ware appears thick and milky in quality. After low temperature firing and multi-layer glazing, cracks sometimes occurred during the first few firing processes. These cracks were then covered with new layers, leaving a unique pattern known as the "pattern of a worm trail along the ground", which can be seen in the "Hibiscus-shaped planter with moon-white glaze" in this exhibition. The Chun ware displayed has a thick clay body. The layers of glaze on the edges of these types of works are thinner and are an earthy yellow in color. This is in contrast with the thick layers of colored glaze on the body. In order to showcase the dazzling colors of Chun ware, some of displayed items are partially enlarged and reproduced, so that the uniqueness of its beauty with ever changing colors can be clearly seen in detail.

   Along with the so-called Sung Chun ware, some of imitations from the Ming and Ch'ing dynasty are also on display in this exhibition. Even though the matter of dating Chun ware has not yet been resolved, through the display and comparison of this type of ware, it is hoped that Chun ware lovers may be inspired while viewing this exhibition.