The Jizhou kilns (吉州窑) probably began production in the Tang dynasty (618-906), reached their height in the Southern Song dynasty (-1279) and closed down in the fourteenth century. A natural disaster may have caused their end. The kilns produced a varied range of ceramics, though the best known are tea bowls.  As a special decorative technique unique to the Jizhou kilns, a papercut 剪纸贴花 or a leaf 木叶贴花 would be stuck  onto the glazed, unfired body. During the firing process, the leaf was burnt out, leaving its skeleton pattern.  Some more commonly found papercut designs include plum blossom, floral spray, dragon, and phoenix.  There are also those with rhomboid patterns and 4 Chinese characters such as fu shou kang ning “福寿康寧” ie  fortune, longevity, health and peace  or chang ming fu gui “长命福贵” ie long life and prosperity.  其胎骨粗松,體質厚重,釉色深者如漆,淺者似醬,紋樣有灑釉、木葉、剪紙貼花、彩繪、剔花、玳瑁、素瓷等。這些裝飾的構思新穎、別致,在宋代各産瓷區中獨樹一幟.


Aimlessly attending the Asian Pacific Art Show in New York (Apr ’10) because it was convenient enough, I nonetheless hardly expected to run into anything interesting and affordable, but immediately fell for Jizhou ceramics to my own surprise.  I literally dreamt of owning a colorful near abstract tea bowl I saw during the day in a booth by the English dealer Jan van Beers, and I couldn’t help but return to the Show and bought it without hardly any negotiating.  The teabowl was a perfect tortoise-shell Jizhou ware with a paper-cut design of lotus leaves in the interior. How a teabowl survived 1000 years is a mystery to me and although it cannot talk, I can just imagine the stories it would tell if it could. The remarkable glaze on the particular bowl by pioneering potters at the Jizhou kilns (吉州窑 located in Jian county 吉安县 Yunghe town 永和镇) in Jiangxi province were known as ‘tortoiseshell’ glaze (玳瑁釉), supposedly due to its similarity to the shell of a warm-water sea turtle known as the hawksbill.  Compare two similar ‘tortoiseshell’-glazed conical bowls, the first from the Charles B. Hoyt Collection, and now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World’s Great Collections, vol. 10, Tokyo, 1980, no. 172; the second illustrated in Song Ceramics from the Kwan Collection, Hong Kong, 1994, no. 170.  Also compare with a very similar bowl below at a Sotheby auction reputably from the A. Schoenlicht Collection and a very similar bowl, see R.Mowry, Hare’s Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers, Cambridge, 1995, Catalogue no.100.

Jizhou teabowl, Song (960-1279) Dynasty, 6 x 12 cm

A comparable bowl was one sold in 2007 at Sotheby’s

Jizhou 11cm "Papercut Bowl" Sothebys SALE 7211, Lot 225 London 2007 for GBP 8,400

Compare an excavated sample in the Jianxi Provincial Museum, excavated from Yonghe Kiln:

A similar 11.5 x 6 cm Jizhou bowl auctioned in Beijing in ’06 Spring

宋 吉州窑贴花碗

Other “tortoise shell” Jizhou tea-bowl examples include:

from Christie's Sale 1264, lot 253 in Sept 2003, New York $6573


The following small “tortoise-shell” tea bowl acquired from Karl C (Germany) in early 2011 (005) exhibits a knife (?) grooved band below the rim, covered inside and out with a dark brown glaze surrounding irregular splashes of transparent amber glaze which ends in an irregular line atop a thinner brown slip-glaze on the lower body to expose the somewhat granular ware.

11.4 x 5 cm

A very similar Jizhou tortoise-shell teabowl exactly the same 11.4 cm diameter was auctioned by Christie’s in 2003:

Christie's Sale 1211, lot 219 usd 2,150 - '03

And another from a Chinese Auction site:

The exposed feet is somewhat unusual amongst extant tortoise shell bowls, but one example above and also see the shards below from from the 2009 excavation of in Song – Yuan granary site in Jiansu Province 镇江西门桥粮仓:

Song - Yuan granary site in Zhenjiang, Jiansu

Song-Yuan jizhou shards excavated in 2009 from 镇江西门桥

Another Song Jizhou tea bowl acquired for Karl in early 2011 (054) is similarly sized and stylistically interesting because of the abstract:

11.4 x 5 cm

宋 吉州窑加白彩茶盏


Similary abstract bowls, although most extant bowls are done with a darker almost black

Other examples of Jizhou ware include:

Notice the beautiful abstract pattern which is the glaze in the above bowl. This was achieved by applying ash-rich, light coloured glazes in an irregular pattern over a dark brown under layer of glaze.  When it is fired, the two glaze elements merge in the kiln to produce a dramatic effect.  The type of glaze seen here is sometimes referred to as ‘tiger’s fur’. It occurs under the highest temperatures when the fluxing properties of magnesia and calcia in the overglazes are at their most effective, causing the splashes of ash to dissolve the iron in the darker glaze and produce transparent amber streaks.1   Similar bowls are in the Schatzman collection (Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC), in the collection of Simon Kwan (Hong Kong Museum of Art), and in the Umberto Draghi collection (Musée Royal de Mariemont).

Other beautiful patterns found on Jizhou ware include:

Unsual speckled 11.6cm Jizhou bowl, Sotheby's Sale L00517, Lot 125, 2000. Sold for 22,350 GBP

Rare 14.9cm Guri-Style Jizhou bowl at Sothebys L01262, Lot 78, 2001. Sold for 21,200 GBP

Jizhou 14.6cm "Leaf Bowl" Sotheby's Sale 8420 Lot 75, New York 2008. USD 27,400

Jizhou 11.5cm "Papercut Bowl" Sotheby's Sale 8223 Lot 291, New York 2006 USD 8,400

Jizhou "Phoenix Bowl" 11,950 GBP (Sothby's 2002)

A very rare 11.5cm Jizhou "speckled deer" bowl 15535 GBP (Sothebys 2002)

I love tea of course and have seen Tenmoku or Tenmmoku (天目盏) or Jian or Jizhou style ceramic before and loved them even decades ago when WZ Sun in Taiwan gave me one as a gift of a similarly conical styled tea bowl which he in turn got from a potter friend in Dan Shui.  Similarly styled bowls are still being produced today, in China as well as Japan where it has been prized.  Indeed, these same Jizhou bowls are prized by the Japanese and called Tenmoku Chawan and considered National Treasures, and you will see some vivid examples if you visit the Kyoto National Museum (Rooms 3 and 4 on First Flr of New Exhibition Hall):

Honan Tenmoku (Kyoto National Museum) above and below

Hare's fur Tenmoku (Kyoto National Museum) Top and Bottom

Another Hare's Fur Tenmoku (Kyoto National Museum) 13.7 x 6.5 x 4.5 cm

Though originally imported from China in the late Heian period (12th century), by the late Kamakura period, the Japanese began to produce Tenmoku of their own in the Seto region (today’s Aichi Prefecture). One difference between Seto and Jian ware was the clay, where the Seto clay is low in iron content and appear whiter.  I had acquired a Jian style tea bowl (EB5.10.325) from a Japanese dealer Mr. Watanabe of Tottori-ken, Japan recently that is dark and brooding with the pattern somewhat fading:

If you research Jizhou ware, you will note that it is not the most famous of the many Song kilns, nor the most celebrated nor prized. But dark brooding and tasteful almost eternal patterns draws one’s instant attention.

Modern and Fake Jizhou wares

Because if the rarity and value of Jizhou wares, there are reproductions, fakes (reproductions passed on as authentic), and simply new ones, and some are very artfully produced or reproducted.

Some are available online, some are passed on as authentic. If honest, they usually sell for the vicinity of usd 50 but as low as CNY 30 (usd 3) on Chinese websites.  These would be baseline price/values as the reproduction at the National Museum in Taipei has a copy selling for $50+.  If the aesthetic value to you is higher than the historical or collector value, then I see no issue with collecting reproductions: simply for enjoying the shape and designs:

Reproduction Jizhou ware


吉州窑陶瓷在我国宋元时期是重要的商品之一,它为促进我国和世界各国的贸易往来和文化交流作出了重大贡献。世界各地的很多博物馆和收藏家都藏有吉州 窑的名贵产品。1975年,在东京博物馆举办日本出土的中国陶瓷展览,吉州窑的兔毫斑、鹧鸪斑和玳瑁斑成为传世珍品,日本国珍藏的剪纸贴花盏被誉为国宝。 1976年,在新安海域发现一艘开往朝鲜、日本的中国元代沉船,从沉船中打捞出1.5万余件我国的古陶瓷,不少属吉州窑烧制。韩国中央博物馆陈列的42件 吉州窑瓷器被视为稀世珍品。英国博物馆所藏的吉州窑产凤首白瓷瓶堪称瓷中尤物,木叶天目盏则被列为国宝。


Koh Antique

Hudong Online Encyclopedia

Also 江西省博物馆保管研究部主任王宁的看法:“虽然现时国内吉州瓷收藏人群并不大,但我相信,随着人们对吉州窑瓷器的逐渐认识,其投资升值空间一 定非常广阔。”王宁支招,投资收藏吉州瓷首选的生产量少的树叶纹盏、兔毫纹盏和鹧鸪纹盏。王宁告诉记者:“粗略估计,现时保存完好的吉州窑树叶纹盏存世量 仅为几十个,收藏价值极高。购买时要从胎质、釉色、器型等方面进行判断。如釉色古朴自然的为真,娇作鲜艳的为假,叶脉清晰自然的为真,含糊造作为假.  吉州窯瓷器的施釉甚不規則,往往胎腳和圈足露出胎骨,露胎處可見修胎時不工整的刀印痕迹,顯示出生硬的棱角。這是鑒別吉州窯的重要特徵,而仿品則修胎平整,沒有民間自然粗獷的味道。

收藏专家建议鉴别吉州窑首先是看年代,其次看胎瓷。佛山陶瓷收藏家梁秉南表示一般吉州窑胎质粗松,胎体略厚,胎色常见的有浅黑色胎、浅灰色胎及米黄色胎等。吉州窑的釉面玻化程度一般不高,器物底部多见露胎,底足修饰刀痕粗犷,如果胎体修饰平整且釉面光亮,则要当心是仿品。[2007-11-05 : 广州日报 作者: 上官建庆]


吉州窑属民间窑场,产量大,生产较随意,加上坯胎含砂量高,釉料稠了难挂附,因而形成了釉料稀、上釉薄的特点。与建窑黑釉凝重的特色比,少有建窑所特有的“流泪”现象;宋元以前的黑釉瓷器,因釉料稀,容易下流,口沿往往显现淡淡的黄线圈;因上釉稀薄,受釉冷得快、 胎冷得慢的温差影响,几乎所有的黑釉窑变瓷的釉面在放大镜下均可看到不规则的冰裂现象:因上釉稀薄,在阻刀、跳刀所造成的轻微起伏处,釉料难以挂附均匀, 若选择适当的倾斜角度观察釉面,还可以看到波浪起伏的釉面肌理;也正因为上釉稀薄,坯胎吸附过多,釉面形成许许多多肉眼无法看见的缺釉毛孔,显得粗糙干 涩,有如“雨花石”见水就亮的特质,因为水会迅速填满缺釉毛孔,使釉面浑然一体,自然就晶莹剔透了。上述这些吉州窑所特有的釉泽现象,是新品无法显现的

宋元黑釉瓷的外销 – 罗劲松