The TT Tsui collection of Chinese ceramics
Song Dynasty 960–1279
Lidded funerary jar
While Buddhism was not particularly favoured during the Song Dynasty, Buddhist symbols were by now firmly integrated into the Chinese potter's design repertoire.
The shape of this vessel is reminiscent of a lotus bud. Its surface is incised with lotus petals while the finial on the lid resembles both a lotus bud and the stupa shape of Buddhist shrines. This form is found on other Buddhist artefacts such as the ritual bell. The five spouts do not articulate with the body, indicating they may have been used to hold incense.
Five is a symbolic number referring to the Five Elements, a Daoist concept. The size of the container is indicative of the type of funerary wares favoured during the Song period, a departure from the often monumental tomb figures of the Tang dynasty.
The Song dynasty is regarded as a great period for ceramics. The method of producing fine white porcelain became well understood by potters who were now able to produce high temperatures in the kiln. The technique of celadon glazing with its characteristic crackled glaze reached new heights and the green vessels became sought after trade commodities throughout maritime Southeast Asia, the Middle East and India.
Celadon production was concentrated around the Longquan kilns sited along the Longquan River in the mountainous region in southwest Zhejiang province. The celadons have a clear jade or plum-green colour. From the Song dynasty (1127–1279), Yuan (1279–1368) and through to the early Ming dynasty (1368–1644) celadons of great finesse were produced in the area.
Head of the Buddha
While Buddhism was not actively supported by the Song, the religion had gained a strong foothold during the Tang Dynasty and Buddhist images continued to be made under local patronage. This large stone head of the Buddha is over life size and would have been part of a monumental seated or standing image.
The large hair curls and gently rounded cranial bump, usnisha, and squared plump face are typical of Chinese Buddhist images. The triangular space on the front of the hair may have contained a precious stone. There are traces of black pigment on the image suggesting it was once painted and gilded.