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Introduction

   In the Sung dynasty, a sense of "harmony," or "resonance," between artist and subject as well as viewer and object, became one of the ideals of art. This elusive quality proved difficult to pinpoint, but once achieved, it transcended the subject and went beyond external appearances. In other words, as skills and techniques for representation grew increasingly sophisticated in the Sung, scholars felt that allusion and suggestion, as indicated through subtle introspection, became as important as outside form. This realm of ideas and aesthetic refinement could be reached through mature yet simple--even seemingly bland--styles. Sung calligraphy, painting, ceramics, and lacquerware are a concrete expression of this trend. In calligraphy, for example, the greatest advances took place in running script, where scholars strove to express themselves with sometimes more personal flair than technical perfection. Likewise, in painting, the apparently simple scholar styles of monochrome ink and pai-miao (outlines) rose as color was completely eschewed in favor of plain ink. Sung artisans were able to create such opulent and advanced lacquerware techniques as carved red, gold inlay, mother-of-pearl inlay, and hide texture. However, it was the subtle beauty of black lacquer that was appreciated in tea ceremonies by scholars and for imperial occasions. Likewise, beautifully carved and colored ceramics were often fired at private kilns during the Sung dynasty, but it was often the ultra-refined and subtle beauty of monochrome glazes with engraved decoration or crackle that was favored by the court and produced at imperial kilns.