Porcelain Ding ware bowl

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

Intricate, moulded decoration

This bowl was produced at the Ding kilns in Hebei province, northern China, whose white porcelains were considered one of the 'five great wares' of the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279 AD). The others were called Ru, Jun, Guan and Ge wares. Ding wares were sent to the Imperial court as tribute as early as AD 980.

Early Ding wares were fired in separate saggars, with each piece having been incised individually. In the late eleventh or early twelfth century, they began using moulds for decoration and stacked the pieces for firing, which allowed mass production. The decorative effect differs greatly between the early and the later examples.

The decoration on this bowl is a good example of the later, moulded type. Children play among lotus flowers, a common motif in Chinese ceramics, paintings and textiles. The moulds became less crisp with repeated use, but this appears to be one of the first impressions, as the decoration is still very clear.

The metal band around the mouth is made of a copper alloy. Apart from its decorative use, it also smoothed the rough, unglazed rim.

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More information


J. Harrison-Hall, 'Ding and other whitewares of northern China' in Pottery in the making: world-8 (London, The British Museum Press, 1997), pp. 182-87

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

J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Diameter: 21.300 cm (at mouth)
Diameter: 21.300 cm (at mouth)

Museum number

Asia OA 1947.7-12.62


Bequeathed by Henry J. Oppenheim


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