Archives for posts with tag: ci zhou kiln

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W160xL380xH250mm, China

Ceramic pillows have long been used by the Chinese, offering the pleasure of a coolness in those hot summer nights.

They became most popular in the Tang dynasty when the technique of firing has reached a certain height and pottery becomes available to the masses.  Different forms and style were made and the children theme was one of them.  This particular pillow is known as the “hai er zhen” and was made by the famous kiln in the South of China, Ci Zhou kiln, which is characterized by the descriptive black strokes on white clay or vice versa.

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oil lampW90xD60xH200mm, China

 A figurine of a boy dressed in a du dou, a long life locklet and lifting a bowl on top of him.  The bowl is the oil container for the oil lamp while the boy being the stand.  The name of the lamp, “Boy Raising A Lamp” (童子舉燈) signified however, the lamp is referring only to the container itself.  This is a popular theme for Chinese oil lamp, of different material and for pottery different kilns.  This figurine is an example of the Ci Zhou kiln.  The name 童子舉燈 “Tong Zi Ju Deng” is taken as a blessing for the child of the family, the first three words 童子舉 is a name for a official tang dynasty exam for the gifted child of under 10 years of age, while the word 燈 “deng” is a homonym to the word 登”deng” meaning ascend, achieved.

Ci Zhou KilnW70xH200xD120mm, China

Today, for Something New Something Old pottery, we have something old.  A figurine of a boy holding a lotus made in the Ci Zhou kiln.  On further research, the boy’s name is Mo He Yue, the Chinese folk portrayal of the Buddha Siddhattha Gotama’s son – Rahula.  Rahula was born before Prince Siddhartha was enlightened to become the buddha, being raised by the his mother and grandfather King Suddhodana.  When Rahula was 7 year old, the Buddha returned to the palace, on the 7th day his mother Princess Yasodhara told Rahula to ask his father for the inheritance of the crown since the Buddha has already renounced his duty as the prince.  The Buddha knowing the crown goes with the worldly life is full of trouble, so instead gave his son spiritual enlightenment.  The Buddha asked his disciple Sariputta to ordain Rahula who later became one of the arhants.

Since the Tang dynasty, figurines of Mo He Yue have been used for the worship for the Qi Xi festival (7th of lunar July).  However, the Qi Xi festival has nothing to do with Buddhism but a celebration of love between a cowboy (Nin Lang) and a weaver girl (Zhi Nu).  

The love story goes something like this; a poor boy called Nin Lang who live with lived with his brother and the wife.  The sister in law was not keen on having a boy hanging around and had a cunning plan.  She asked Nin Lang to herd 9 of her cows but on his returned claimed that there were 10, if Nin Lang didnt manage to find the 10th cow he will not be allowed home again.  Nin Lang found a sick yellow cow on the hill, he nursed him carefully until the cow regained its health.  The cow was very grateful and revealed that he was actually a saint who has been strike down to earth.  The cow became a buddy of Nin Lang and told him  a place on earth where the female saints would hang out and there Ning Lang met Zhi Nu.  The 2 soon fell in love with each other and had a twin.  The Queen Mother of the West (the supreme head of all female saints) found out this forbidden sin, a earthy being having children with the saint, and escorted Zhi Nu back to heaven.  Seeing that Nin Lang became very sad at the departure of his wife, the cow told Nin Lang that after his death, his skin could be used to make a pair of shoes that could bring Nin Lang to heaven so he could find Zhi Nu again.  Years later, the shoes were made, Nin Lang flew to the sky and saw Zhi Nu at a distance.  The Queen Mother of West throw a hair ornament which became the milky way separating the two again.  Moved by their love, the pica pica birds formed a bridge to help them cross the milky way.  The Queen Mother of West touched, made an exception for them, once a year on the 7th of lunar July, the 2 are allow to meet on the pica pica bridge.  This story is of course a conception of the early Chinese astronomy; Nin Lang being Altair, Zhi Nu being Alpha Lyrae, the yellow cow – the Aldebaran and of course the Milky Way.

Since the Tang dynasty there has been the worship of the 2 lovers, in particular Zhi Nu, the weaver of colourful clouds in the sky.  It is believed that the girls would pick up her skillful hands. Now what has Rahula, the son of the Buddha got to do with the 2 lovers.  It has to do with other custom of Qi Xi, as it is a night of the union of the lovers, baby figurines were made as a symbol of conception of the much desired baby boy.  By Tang dynasty, with the arrival of Buddhism from India, these baby figurines were made into Rahula who is gifted and grown to be an arhant, an image of a son everyone wished for.  Rahula, being left behind by the Buddha at birth but eventually enlightened and preached by the Buddha.  This reunion fulfilled the void left behind the by separation of Nin Lang and Zhi Nu.

Slowly, the figurine changed from their role of being worship to being admired and by Sung dynasty when technique of molding was made popular, the Rahula (Mo He Yue) figurine became a toy.

W200xD100xH250mm, China

Although the god of longevity originated from the stars, his large and elongated brain has nothing to do with the alien and the outer space.  The form of his head is associated with longevity, like that of  the mystical bird, the red crown crane (grus japonensis).  The red crown crane lives to 50-60 years old  which is consider to be very long when the average life span of birds are about 10-15 years.  Another association is queen mother god’s longevity peach which the plant only flower and bear once 3000 years.  Combining both of these longevity forms his head took on the exaggerated shape.

Click  to see our clay and stone version.

D60xW120xH150mm, China

To continue with the chicken theme, we have a flower vase from the Ci Zhou kiln.  Ci Zhou kiln is the largest folk kiln in northern Chinese which dated back to the Song dynasty; it is famous for its black on white pottery (no, I did not set the camera to nostalgic tone) which was a break through in glazing tradition at the time, some believed that it set the foundation for the now well known blue and white porcelain ware.  White slip is applied to the semi dried clay work, a iron based black slip that contained iron is painted over to add detail to the vase, a clear glaze is applied after the first firing.