This is a pair of pottery figures in Tz'u- Chou (Cizhou) ceramic with a tan glaze and dark brown and black highlights. They portray two standing boys (or men) with their arms held in front of their body and their finger tips touching. Their hair is shaped into two top knots on the opposite sides of their heads. The facial features are outlined in a dark brown as are their tall boots. The pieces each measure 11 1/4" tall by 3 " wide by 2 1/4" deep.
There are some few brown overglaze features outlining their garments - just enough to see the general outline of the garments. The details on of the garments worn by each are slightly different. The knees and the tips of their shoes are also done in the dark brown overglaze. Each figure has been both molded and painted individually. One can see this in the slight differences in the shapes of their noses - the placements of the top knots - and details of the garments, The figures are both in very good condition - we date them to late Qing dynasty - possibly older. The two top knots on each also have very light scuffing on the edges and there was some small loss of glaze at the bottom of the figures.
Tz'u-chou is a term used to classify a wide range of northern Chinese stonewares made principally in Hopeh, Honan, Shansi, and Shantung provinces between the Sung and Ming dynasties (960-1644). Tz'u-chou arose from the tradition of T'ang dynasty (618-906) white wares, but coarse local clays required the use of a creamy white slip to mask the dark color of the buff-grey body. This white slip is the distinguishing characteristic of Tz'u-chou ceramics which consisted primarily of inexpensive wares for everyday use.
The success and longevity of Tz'u-chou wares can be attributed to their middle class popularity and regional economic base. Sturdily potted and utilitarian, they did not depend heavily upon court patronage or export revenues like other Chinese ceramic wares.