Cizhou ware ceramic pillow

From Hebei Province, northern China
Song dynasty, late 11th-early 12th century AD

A stoneware pillow with design of a dancing bear

The term 'Cizhou ware' refers to a type of sturdy stoneware produced at many kilns throughout the northern Chinese provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shaanxi. These wares were produced during the Northern Song (960-1127), Jin (1127-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties. Cizhou wares are heavily potted and boldly decorated with freely drawn designs. They are called 'popular' ceramics (as opposed to the types produced for the imperial court).

Ceramic pillows were used by the living, but were also buried in tombs for the next life, along with other items for daily use. They look very uncomfortable for sleeping.

This pillow is in the shape of a leaf, set on a square base. The headrest was probably coated with white slip, then a layer of black slip. This was incised and then cut away to leave the design of the dancing bear attached to a pole. Scrape marks are visible on the white background. Finally, a transparent glaze was applied. This technique is called sgraffito, or 'scratched' decoration.

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More information


S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

Y. Mino, Freedom of clay and brush thro (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1980)


Height: 23.600 cm
Width: 33.600 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1936.10-12.169



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