Stoneware ewer in the shape of a mermaid

From north-eastern China
Liao dynasty, 10th-11th century AD

The Qidan people, whose dynasty is known as the Liao (AD 907-1125), succeeded the Tang dynasty on the north-eastern edge of the Chinese empire, controlling territory in Liaoning province and present-day Hebei and Inner Mongolia. The Liao ruled at the same time as the Northern Song dynasty, but their ceramics were more influenced by Tang traditions than by contemporary Song wares.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Liao kilns produced both white wares and sancai (three-coloured) wares. There is detailed incising under the white glaze of this ewer, a decorative technique which was also characteristic of the sancai wares.

The ewer has a very unusual form. Mermaids are not usually part of Chinese iconography, and this figure, with folded hands, may be more closely related to Buddhist tradition.

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More information


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


Length: 17.700 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1937.7-16.69


Purchased with the assistance of public subscription from the George Eumorfopoulos Collection


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