The Bodhisattva Collection

An Inscribed Post-Devanagari Jar, Song-Yuan (960-1368)

An Inscribed Post-Devanagari Jar, Song-Yuan (960-1368)


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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Pottery: Pre 1492: Item # 947585
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From our Early Chinese Collection, a rare earthenware Buddhist offering vessel dating from either the Song or Yuan Dynasty (960-1368 AD). This offering vessel is one of a group of several highly obscure and esoteric pottery pieces hailing from Yunnan Province in Southwestern China. The formal scholarship on these pieces is unfortunately thin at best, and we are currently aware of only one publication addressing these pieces at all, which is Michael Teller's Offering Vessels of Yunnan. As Teller explains, the exact purpose of these jars is still not fully settled, but it is believed they are all offering vessels of some type, with many having been found containing such things as cowrie shells, copper and bronze discs, paper, beads, fabrics, and other items. Others contain the residue of burnt plant matter, suggesting again that offerings were burnt in homage to the deceased.

The body of this particular jar is constructed of an orange-tinged, buff-colored pottery, and is inscribed along the entire outside surface with lines of a now defunct Sanskrit-type language, that some scholars believe is a derivation of 10th century Devanagari. It is also believed that the writing is perhaps the words to an incantation or ceremonial chant, and as with many of these jars, there are also several lines of Chinese script running vertically down the jar and onto the base. The Chinese script here, as with many of the jars, is almost indecipherable, and was probably written by somebody who was technically illiterate in written Chinese, but was spelling out the words phonetically in the manner that he or she knew how to pronounce them. In the few instances where the Chinese writing is decipherable on these jars, the names of people can be made out, giving credence again to the notion that these jars were offered in honor of the deceased.

This particular group of jars with this Sanskrit-type / post-Devanagari writing, forms a coherent group, but there are several variations documented from the excavations, so we have attached some images of these for comparison.

Size and Condition: 10 1/4 inches tall to tip of finial on lid, 7 inches wide at the shoulder. In near perfect condition with no repairs or restoration. There is some blackening to one side of the jar, but this is caused by uneven temperatures in the kiln during firing, and is not damage.