Jian Wares (Wares of the Jian Kiln)

Tenmoku and hare's fur bowls
the best of Jian wares

Produced were these at the Jian kilns (also called Jianyang kilns), located in Jianyang, Fujian province.
This was one of the eight great kiln systems of the Song dynasty. The kilns in Jianyang were the first in the area to start producing predominantly black porcelain items. After its success other kilns in its vicinity, like Jizhou kiln, also started producing black items. Excavations have proven that towards the end of the Southern Song dynasty hare’s fur bowls were fired here on behalf of the imperial palace.
The main products manufactured here were bowls, plates and dishes. The Jian kilns started operating in the late Tang dynasty and were flourishing during the Song dynasty. In the Yuan dynasty the importance or the Jian kilns diminished, and production ceased altogether in the Ming dynasty.

Jian kilns are best known for their black and brown glazed tea bowls. The tea bowls were brought back to Japan by visiting Japanese monks, and they are now better known to the world as Tenmoku or Temmoku tea bowls, their Japanese name.

These black bowls usually are brown along the whole top rim, and show many fine brown streaks running down the black glaze, on the inside and outside of the bowl. This gives these bowls their unique appearance. Sometimes the bowl has more of a brown appearance, as the black glaze did run down rather far.

This is also one of the main differences to distinguish the Jian bowls from other black wares. Jizhou bowls, for example, are frequently mixed up with Jian bowls. But, their rim is usually black.

Points for authenticating of Jian wares are:

  1. Black and brown colored glaze and a dark clay body (paste), caused by high iron content; the glaze is relatively thick.
  2. Firing was done face up, and the black glaze shows signs of running downward towards the foot.
  3. The glaze was applied both on the inside and outside. Earlier Jian tea bowls have a thinner glaze; later ones have a thick glaze that gives the appearance of oil drops (aka tear drops in Chinese). Under the black glaze fine thread-like crystals of brown-yellow color should be present.
  4. The rim is brown and the exposed foot rim is not covered by the glaze.
  5. The  foot is lower than usual, and its clay should have a rough surface (if it is smooth it is likely a later copy). Its color is brown and darker than the yellow clay of Jizhou bowls.

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