This rare and handsome wine jar is decorated using a technique employed at several kilns in north China. The technique of fully glazing the vessels and then cutting away or incising the design through the glaze before firing, produced a dramatic design. Such designs owed their impact not only to the contrast between the pale colour of the revealed body material and the rich dark brown of the glaze, but to the contrast between the slightly rough, matte texture of the body and the silky gloss of the glaze.
Vessels decorated using this technique were made at several kilns producing ceramics of Cizhou type in the 13th and 14th centuries. In Shanxi provinces, kilns at Datong and Hunyan produced cut-glaze wares (see P. Huges-Stanton and R. Kerr, Kiln Sites of Ancient China - Recent Finds of Pottery and Porcelain, Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1980, pp. 103-5, nos. 475-80, 487-90), and at the Baofeng kilns in Henan cut glaze wares have also been found (see ibid. p. 89, no. 417). However, stonewares decorated using the same technique were also made at kilns to the northwest in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The highpoint of ceramic production in the Ningxia region was under the Xi Xia or Western Xia (AD 1038-1227), a Tibetan-related people, who allied with the Liao to prevent Song incursion into their territory. One of the major sites of ceramic production under the Xi Xia was the Lingwu kiln site, 4 km. north of the town of Ciyaobu, Lingwu county, Ningxia, which was excavated in 1984-86. A comprehensive report was published in 1995 by the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, entitled Ningxia Lingwu yao fajue baogao. This excavation report indicates that jars of this form were among the range of shape that were made with cut-glaze decoration at the Lingwu kiln site (ibid. pl. CXXII).
Compare also a related example from the C.C. Wang Family Collection sold at Sotheby's New York, 27 November 1990, lot 43