Guan ware vase

From Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, south-eastern China
Southern Song dynasty, 12th-13th century AD

A celadon vase with crackling

In 1127, the Song court at Kaifeng was overrun by northern invaders, who established the Jin dynasty (1115-1234). The Song court fled south to Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, where the emperor established a new palace as a temporary measure. In fact, the Southern Song capital remained at Hangzhou until the dynasty was finally overthrown by the Mongols in 1279.

The new imperial household at Hangzhou required a supply of ceramic vessels, and new kilns were established. The new wares produced were called Guan, ('official'). These were probably meant to imitate the Ru wares which had been favoured by the last two Northern Song emperors, whose production ceased when the court fled. It is believed that potters from the Ru kilns accompanied the court to Hangzhou to continue supplying the emperor with fine ceramics.

Guan ware is one of the 'five great wares' of the Song. The others are Ru, Ding, Jun and Ge wares. Guan pieces are intentionally given a noticeable crackle, as on this vase; the glaze is applied several times, so that the glaze is actually thicker than the stoneware body.

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Guan ware vase

  • Base of vase

    Base of vase


More information


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


Height: 27.500 cm
Diameter: 16.900 cm (base)
Diameter: 16.900 cm (base)

Museum number

Asia OA 1936.10-12.148



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