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Ting Ware White Ceramic Pillow in the Shape of a Child

Tags: ceramics | National Palace Museum | Northern Sung | vessel


Northern Sung period (960-1126)
Height: 18.8 cm, diameter at base: 31 x 13.2 cm 
During the T’ang dynasty, most ceramics pillows either had a tri-color “san-ts’ai” glaze, or were glazed brown, black, or a Ch’ang-sha bronze color. At the time, too, there were only two basic types, one used to sleep on, and one on which for taking a pulse. By the Sung dynasty, there was a greater variety of designs, including one made especially to be buried with the deceased. The variation extended to size and style, but also to the kind of decoration, which usually implied some auspicious meaning. This example, in the form of a child playing, was for general use. The design is both life-like and alluring, with the child, clearly in excellent health, wearing a suit of clothing including a long brocaded top, lying on a mattress, legs crossed behind. The National Palace Museum in Peking has a very similar example, but it lacks the detail in the child’s clothing this one has. The front and back of the pillow were made separately, mold-pressed and then put together before firing. After they had been put together, the facial expression and details on the clothing were carved. The base is flat, with a round hole cut into the left and right sides to allow air to escape during the firing process, preventing the piece from exploding in the kiln. The glaze is ivory white with a hint of gray. As Ting ware was fired using charcoal as fuel, it had to be fired in an oxidized atmosphere, giving the white glaze this yellowish hue. The glaze has run on several parts of the base, an effect described by literati as “tear marks.” The bottom of the pillow has been inscribed with a poem written by the Ch’ien-lung Emperor in the spring of 1773.

Text: Ts'ai Ho-pi

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum