Song-dynasty ceramics — made in China, adored in Japan

The Linyushanren Collection, a comprehensive selection of wares dating to the Song dynasty, embodies the centuries-long Japanese love affair with China’s finest kilns

A highlight of Asian Art Week in New York, The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics: The Linyushanren Collection, Part II sale represents a 20-year journey of discovery made by a distinguished Japanese collector. Central to it are monochrome-glazed ceramics from the prized Ru, Ge, Guan, Jun and Ding kilns of the Song dynasty.

‘Each carefully selected work displays the bold design, opalescent glaze or sophisticated shape that made ceramics of this period desirable for more than 1,000 years,’ says Michelle Cheng, a specialist in the Chinese Works of Art department. 

A rare carved and moulded yue ‘mandarin ducks’ box’ and cover. Five Dynasties — Northern Song dynasty (907–1127). Estimate $30,000–50,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

A rare carved and moulded yue ‘mandarin ducks’ box’ and cover. Five Dynasties — Northern Song dynasty (907–1127). Estimate: $30,000–50,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics: The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

The Japanese encountered Chinese wares for the first time almost 1,200 years ago when scholars and monks travelled to China. When they returned home they brought with them the delicately wrought wares of the Song dynasty, integrating them into their own traditions and collections.

Belying the simplicity of their form and design, Song-dynasty ceramics were created with the help of technical innovations that allowed for greater control of the kiln and the firing process. The opalescent blue glazes of Jun wares, the inky dark glazes of Jian wares and the soft celadons from Longquan were the accomplishments of master ceramicists with expert knowledge of glaze composition and steady control over the kiln environment. 

A Longquan celadon ‘twin-phoenix’ mallet vase. Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Estimate $200,000–300,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

A Longquan celadon ‘twin-phoenix’ mallet vase. Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Estimate: $200,000–300,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics: The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

A major highlight from the collection is the Kuroda family yuteki tenmoku oil-spot Jian tea bowl, remarkable for the oil-spot patterning suffused in a jet-black glaze. The collection reflects the fashion for tea-drinking that developed in Japan during the Song dynasty. Japanese Buddhist monks encountered Jian-ware tea bowls during the Song dynasty when they visited Chan Buddhist monasteries on Tianmu Mountain. When they reached Japan these bowls became highly prized by Japanese tea masters, who appreciated the lustrous black glaze that provided a pleasing contrast to the green foamy tea that was prepared.

The Kuroda family yuteki tenmoku. A highly important and very rare ‘oil-spot’ Jian tea bowl. Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Estimate $1,500,000–2,500,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

The Kuroda family yuteki tenmoku. A highly important and very rare ‘oil-spot’ Jian tea bowl. Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Estimate: $1,500,000–2,500,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics: The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

Other notable examples from the collection include a jardinière with a jewel-like lavender-blue glaze, which in Chinese is called meigui zi; a painted Cizhou deep bowl with an exuberant black-and-white design that echoes the calligraphy and decorative motifs of this period; and a Ding dish finely carved with a single lotus flower and delicate details.

A very rare ‘number three’ Jun jardinière. Yuan-Ming dynasty, 14th-15th century. Estimate $200,000–300,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

A very rare ‘number three’ Jun jardinière. Yuan-Ming dynasty, 14th-15th century. Estimate: $200,000–300,000. This lot will be offered in The Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics: The Linyushanren Collection, Part II, 15 September at Christie’s New York

Celebrating the great artistic achievements of the Song-dynasty potters, the Classic Age of Chinese Ceramics: The Linyushanren Collection, Part II comes to auction on 15 September at Christie’s New York. Viewing begins on 9 September.