Period: Five Dynasties (907–960)
Date: 10th century
Medium: Stoneware with carved and incised decoration under celadon glaze (Yue ware)
Dimensions: Diam. 10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1918
Accession Number: 18.56.36
The quality of potting and the production of fine ceramic wares seem to have been unaffected by the political turbulence that gripped China as the Tang dynasty (618–907) lost its preeminence at the beginning of the tenth century. Indeed, the quality of the output of the Yue kilns in the northern part of Zhejiang Province seems to have peaked during the upheavals of the Five Dynasties period, which occurred throughout most of the first sixty years of the century. This tenth-century bowl, with carved and incised dragons under a lustrous green glaze, is one of the great ceramic treasures in the Museum's collection. The high-fired clay has vitrified so that it is resonant when struck, although it is not true porcelain in the Western sense, because it is neither white nor translucent. Some Yue ware was known at the time as bise yao, which literally means "prohibited" or "private color ware." According to literary sources, it was reserved for the exclusive use of the princes of the Wu-Yue. The high quality of the workmanship indicates that this piece was produced for royal use at the Yue kilns. The craftsman carved three lively dragons into the wet clay of the bowl, and, as a further indication of its provenance, one of the creatures carries his tail tucked beneath his hind leg, a design element that was a trademark of the Yue kilns.