Of Mist and Lushly Green:
Longquan Celadon from Song to Ming Dynasties
26/1/2016 - 23/4/2016
The exhibition features over 60 pieces of Longquan celadon dated from Song to Ming dynasties from nine Hong Kong private collections.
Longquan celadon was the culmination of Chinese green ware. Formulated in the Northern Song Dynasty, it reigned supreme in the Southern Song and made progress across multiple aspects in the Yuan. Imperial kiln was set up in Longquan in early Ming to manufacture green ware for the court. The downfall of Longquan ware, however, shortly followed in the later period of the Ming Dynasty.
This exhibition revisits the history of Longquan ware, prompting visitors to acquaint with the development of Chinese ceramics and life in Song to Ming China as manifested in the exhibits. Visitors are also invited to delight in the flair and craftsmanship of this world-renowned ceramics.
Message from director
The ceramics industry entered a completely new phase in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Technical skills advanced considerably and many districts became ceramic production centres termed kilns. Each kiln manufactured products distinctive in their own. Among them arose five prestigious kilns in North China including Guan Kiln, Ge Kiln, Ru Kiln, Ding Kiln, and Jun Kiln. These five kilns broke new grounds in the production of monochrome ware. In the south, Longquan Kiln in Zhejiang Province emerged much later. Nonetheless, it had the longest history of production and vastest variety of products.
In the Northern Song Dynasty, Longquan celadon was at its initial stage of production and therefore not given much attention. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), all reputable kilns in the north had declined and political and economic centres shifted south to Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. Longquan Kiln, located in the south, developed speedily under such circumstances and accomplished in many aspects. In terms of clay quality, Northern Song Longquan celadon have biscuits greyish in colour. As high quality clay was used in the Southern Song, celadons with white biscuits along with small quantities with black biscuits were fired. Relative to other kilns, Longquan ware had a plentiful variety of vessels ranging from crockery, scholar’s objects to wares for daily use. In regard of glaze, Southern Song Longquan celadon have a thicker and more greenish glaze, either pastel-green or plum-green in colour, with the latter differentiated with a deeper tonality.
Longquan ware reigned supreme since the Southern Song Dynasty. Even though it was said to imitate green jade, in fact, it was modelled after bronzes of the ancient Shang (c. 1600 BC-c. 1046 BC), Zhou (c. 1046 BC-256 BC), and Han (206 BC-220 AD) periods. People in the Song period regarded green-glazed surfaces comparable to patinas on ancient bronzes. A handful of Longquan ware were actually modelled after bronzes such as li (tripod), zun (jar) and hu (ewer). Such manifestation of ardour of antiquity continued to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).
In comparison, Song Lonquan ware have simple decorations while Yuan Longquan ware are complex and elaborated. Large vessels are often found in the latter as well. In the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), imperial Longquan kilns were established to supply to the court exquisite celadon which were particularly greenish in their glaze colour. As for the non-imperial Longquan ware, they were covered in a brighter and
yellowish green glaze.
The intense rivalry with Jingdezhen Kiln eventually led to the downfall of Longquan Kiln in the late Ming Dynasty. From then on, Chinese green ware was no longer fashionable. Green glaze was the earliest glaze colour to be applied in the two thousand years of history of Chinese ceramics. Green ware culminated in Longquan celadon which appealed to consumers throughout and beyond China.
We hope that this exhibition will enable visitors to further appreciate the glorious history of green ware and the success of Longquan celadon. Exhibits have been selected from nine precious private collections. We extend to these collectors our warmest gratitude. We also thank Mr. Andrew Lai, Mr. Benjamin W. Yim and other experts for their invaluable assistance and dedication to the exhibition.
Green is the colour of vegetation, symbolising growth. It is also the colour of patina on ancient bronzes representing longevity. People in the Song Dynasty favoured the colour of green for the vibrancy it embodied. Offering different shades of green, Longquan celadon coupled with such preference, revived monochrome ware and added fluorescence to its history.
YEUNG Chun Tong
The word originated from céladon, a French word. In the book L’Astree by Honore d’Urfe (1568 – 1625) of the 17th Century, the hero’s name is Céladon. The story was adapted into a play in which Céladon, adorned with light green ribbons, became a phenomenon. When Longquan green ware was first introduced to Paris, people grew so enamoured of them that they compared the colour of the green glaze to Céladon’s green ribbons and even named the ware after him. Since then Celadon has become the name of Longquan green ware in the West.
Chief Editor: YEUNG Chun Tong
2016, hardcover, Chinese/English, 144 pages, 24 x 30 cm
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring 62 pieces of Longquan green-glazed ware, including tea bowls, wine jars, flower vases and censers, all selected from 9 Hong Kong private collections.