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Longquan Celadon Plate with Green Glaze and Brown Blotches

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Kiln: Longquan kilns
Period: Yuan dynasty (1272-1368)
Glazetype: Celadon
Dimensions: Height: 3 cm; rim diameter: 16.6 cm; foot diameter: 3.9 cm

This plate has folded rim and a shallow basin with a round foot at the center of the base. As one of the unique features of this plate, the round foot, smaller than those of typical plates, is similar in size to those of bowls. The decoration is similar to other Longquan ceramics with green glazes. The plate is almost completely covered in green glaze with only the central design and the very base of the foot lacking glaze, which was a necessary omission during firing to prevent the bottom of the item from adhering to the kiln container.

One unique aspect is the modeled peach blossom design at the center of the basin. Made with plain clay free of glaze, the blossom acquired its red color through firing and, as a result, creates a striking contrast with the green glaze. Additionally, the green glazed surface is marked with ferrous blotches. The modeled plain clay embellishment and the irregular brown spots on the green glaze are both characteristics of Yuan dynasty (1272–1368) decoration.

Articles with the same design have been discovered in the Sinan (Chinese Xin’an) shipwreck off the Korean coast, and the collection of the Tokyo National Museum houses similar items. According to the latest research, although the shipwreck was found in the territorial waters of Korea, the vessel was originally carrying exports from China bound for Japan. Therefore, the items on the shipwreck and those in Tokyo share the same material qualities. Japanese are especially fond of China’s Longquan celadon, which they call tobi seiji (lit. “flying celadon”, Chinese fei qingci).

As research on items from the Palace Museum, Tokyo National Museum, and Sinan shipwreck shows, Longquan celadon plates with a green glaze and ferrous brown blotches not only reveal the decorative characteristics of Longquan celadon produced during the Yuan period but also outline details of the important export of Longquan celadon from China to Japan at the time. Filled with special significance and important value, this small object clearly testifies to the ceramics trade and maritime routes between China and Japan.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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