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This vase has a wide rimmed mouth, straight neck, broad slanted shoulders, a body that narrows towards the round foot, and a pair of decorative phoenix-shaped handles (called ears). With slight cracking and chipping throughout, the green, lustrous glaze is known as plum-green (meizi qing). Vases with wide rimmed mouths and phoenix or fish designs for ears were produced uniquely at the Longquan kilns. Apart from these ear designs, the main shape with the wide rimmed mouth has the same origin as the paper-mallet vase (zhichui ping, also known as the bent-shoulder vase, zhejian ping) fired at the Ru kilns of the Northern Song (960–1127), Guan kilns of the Southern Song (1127–1279), and Ding kilns; these works were high-grade ceramics made at kilns throughout the North and South during the same period. The paper-mallet vase design is not a traditional Chinese shape but rather similar to Islamic glass vases, reflecting the influence of outside civilizations on Chinese art production.
The pair of decorative ears on either side of the neck was common throughout the Song dynasty. At the time, kilns throughout the North and South made a range of ear styles, including vertical-tube (guan), loop (huan), halberd (ji), and beast (shou) designs. Although these designs had precedents in previous periods, they were not typical of ceramics but rather found on various bronze wares. Reproductions of archaic designs became fashionable as the Song developed an admiration for the art of China’s ancient past.
Over the centuries, the Japanese have developed an appreciation for Longquan celadon. Of eight national-level Chinese ceramic relics in Japan, one is a Longquan celadon vase with green glaze and phoenix ears. In Japanese, vases of this shape are called kinuta seiji (Chinese zhen qingci, lit. “hammering-block ceramics”) due to their resemblance to cylindrical wood mallets (kinuta) used to pound cloth.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying