Here we have a very old Jian ware tea bowl, with rich earth tones that blend in a delicate gradient. The top diameter is 4" - the base diameter is 1 1/4" and the bowl stands 2" high at the rim. It sits on a short base and has a small lip and wide opening. It was dated as being from the Song Dynasty, 960-1279, however we have no provenance to prove that dating. So we will be conservative and date the piece only to the late Qing Dynasty, end of the 19th century. Nevertheless, we believe there is a strong possibility that it is actually a Song piece.
As can readily be seen in the photographs, the tea bowl is out of round and lopsided. At the rim, there is a long semi-circular 3/16" wide band where the glaze has not adhered. We do not think that this was caused by an accident or scraping. Rather, we submit that it was a kiln flaw when several tea bowls were fired at the same time and not kept apart with enough space between each. Accordingly, once the bowl was removed from the kiln this long strip of glaze stuck to the bottom of a bowl higher in the stack. It does have the characteristic hare's fur streaks on both the interior and outside of the bowl. It could be a folk potter's early attempt to make such a bowl. It has proven difficult to get the color correct in different lighting. At any rate, it is an excellent study example of this type of early Chinese ceramics.
Jian ware was Chinese stoneware made for domestic use chiefly during the Song dynasty (960–1279) and into the early 14th century. Jian ware was made in Fujian province, first in kilns at Jian’an and later at Jianyang. The clay used for Jian ware was of a very hard, coarse grain. The inside and about two-thirds of the outside of the ware were covered with a thick, very dark glaze (colored with iron oxide). This glaze usually stopped short of the outer base in a thick welt; it also tended to pool thickly on the inside of the vessel. Within a limited palette dominated by a purplish or bluish black or reddish brown, Jian ware had a range of variations. The most prized glazes resembled the streaking of a hare’s fur, the mottling of partridge markings, or the silvery splattering of oil spots. Tea-bowls are by far the most common, though not the only, form of Jian ware that survives.