While many different vase shapes were made at the Longquan kilns during the Song and Yuan dynasties, the meiping form is remarkably rare prior to the Ming dynasty. The current Longquan meiping not only belongs to the rare early group, but is one of the finest surviving examples. Its glaze has the pure colour and soft translucence, which has been so admired by collectors and connoisseurs in China and Japan for more than 700 years, while its shape has been well potted and displays an attenuated elegance.
The neck of this meiping is of distinctive form, being slightly longer and more columnar than the necks seen on later examples. It may be compared with the necks of two Song dynasty Longquan meiping with carved and incised decoration. One of these is in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and is illustrated by G. Hasebe in Sekai Toji Zenshu – 12 – Song, Tokyo, 1977, p. 198, no. 179. The other was excavated in 1977 from a Northern Song context at Songyangxian in Zhejiang province, and is illustrated by Zhu Boqian in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998, p. 108, no. 69. However, neither of these published vases has the elegant tapering from shoulder to foot that can be seen on the current vase. A Longquan meiping which is closer in profile to the current vessel is the undecorated, lidded vase which was excavated in 1960 from a Southern Song tomb in Longquanxian and included in the exhibition Green Wares from Zhejiang, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 55. Two Yuan dynasty Longquan celadon meiping recovered from the cargo of the Sinan wreck are published in Xinan haidi wenwu, Seoul, 1977, pls. 40 and 41. Both of these vases have strongly tapering sides, however they have wider, more sloping shoulders than the current vessel.
Japanese connoisseurs have treasured fine Longquan celadon wares since they first began to be imported into Japan in the Southern Song period. It is therefore appropriate that this vase has been in the collection of one of Japan’s most historically important families – the Mōri Family. This powerful clan can trace its origins to the nobleman Oe no Hiromoto (AD 1148-1225), who was instrumental in establishing the structure of the Kamakura Shogunate. Oe no Hiromoto’s fourth son founded the Mōri clan. The power of the Mōri family was at its height towards the end of the Muromachi period (1392-1573), when they controlled western Honshu. In 1589, Mōri Terumoto instigated the building of Hiroshima Castle as a stronghold from which to govern the nine provinces under the family’s rule. In time, the area of their lands was reduced to modern day Yamaguchi Prefecture, and their new capital at Hagi City became an important centre for cultural activities. Even after the ending of samurai rule in 1868 the family remained both powerful and influential. Today the Mōri Hontei Villa, with its beautiful gardens, is the setting for a museum devoted to the family collection.
International Academic Director, Asian Art]]>