The TT Tsui collection of Chinese ceramics

Introduction | History | Burial Rites and Mingqi | Spiritual Beliefs | Ceramics


Neolithic Period c.10000–1500 BC


Jar - Late Yangshao period – Banshan type - c.2,500–2,000 BC - earthenware, pigments - Gift to the National Collection of Asian Art from Dr TT Tsui LLD JP, of the Tsui Art Foundation, HK, through the National Gallery of Australia Foundation 1995

Late Yangshao period – Banshan type
c.2500–2000 BC
earthenware, pigments

Banshan period pots are quite characteristic in form and decoration. With its wide body, small handles and short narrow neck, this urn displays an elegance and balance which was a precursor of future ceramic forms. The buff coloured body has been constructed using the coil technique and made in two pieces. These have been luted together and the surface smoothed with a spatula.

The Banshan design repertoire is notable for its free-flowing symmetrical swirls that often wound around geometric forms. These designs probably have their origins in stylised forms of birds and zoomorphic figures that appear on earlier Maijiayao period pottery. In this example evenly spaced circular patterns surround a squared motif. A circle surrounding a square later came to represent heaven surrounding the earth and this symbolism was used when designing the great Ming tombs of the 14th–16th centuries.

While black was the most common colour used to decorate the vessels, dark purple and red pigments were also used – traces of dark purple can be seen on this vessel. Banshan pots have been found amongst the ruins of domestic dwellings indicating they were not used exclusively for burial purposes. However, it is easy to distinguish funerary wares from domestic containers as the grave goods were better finished, usually with a polished or burnished surface.

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