Traditional Chinese Vases and Other Vessels – Part 1

The same forms last for centuries. They can be made out of pottery or porcelain, jade, other precious stones or metal.

Often they originally had lids, although lids get lost. The same basic shape has many variations, with and without handles.

Hu Wine Vessel Form
Lidded ritual wine container (hu) with masks and dragons; China; Late Shang dynasty, ca. 13th century B.C.E.; Bronze
Freer Gallery of Art
China Bronze Vessel Nbronze Fang Hu Wine Vessel Late Eastern Zhou 4Th Century BC
Posterazzi Poster Print on Amazon

Hu Wine Vessels

One of the earliest ceramic forms, the hu harks back to before the Shang dynasty (1600-1045 BCE). First made in pottery, the hu evolved into the bronze form as a ritual wine vessel with a pear-shaped cross section, swelling at the belly, then flaring at a narrow neck, creating an S-shape profile… In the Qing dynasty Kangxi period (r. 1662-1722), the shape would appear in porcelain with holes around the foot…

The Origins and Evolution of Chinese Ceramic Shapes, Sothebys

Spouted Wine Vessel (He)
12th–11th century BC
Bronze with green patina
Asian Art Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness
Metropolitan Museum of Art

He Wine Kettles

… This form appeared in the 11th-10th century BCE as a bronze ritual wine vessel, often found in tripod form and later evolved into animal-form vessels on four legs…

…scholar Wang Guowei (1877-1927) described… banqueters… diluting wine using water poured from a he.

The Origins and Evolution of Chinese Ceramic Shapes, Sothebys

Meiping, Plum or Prunus Vases
Prunus Vase with Inlaid Lotus and Reed Design
Celadon ware with inlaid white and black slip decoration
Meant to hold a single branch of plum tree blossoms.
Korea, Goryeo period (936-1392)
Cleveland Museum of Art
Meiping vase with plum blossoms and bamboo – China
Porcelain painted in overglaze famille rose enamels
First half of the 19th century
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Meiping, Plum or Prunus Vases

The meiping originated in the Tang dynasty (618-907) as a wine storage vessel often found in tombs. Later the shape was used for decorative vases during the Song dynasty… The name ‘plum vase’ comes from the use of placing plum blossoms in the vase. The body is tall and slender with a short narrow neck, broad rounded shoulders, tapering to a narrow base. They sometimes had lids, which were often lost, and variations include hexagonal meiping vases.

The Origins and Evolution of Chinese Ceramic Shapes, Sothebys

Yuhuchunping, Pear-Shaped Vases
Yongzh – Pear-Shaped Vase
Qing dynasty (1644-1912)
Porcelain with underglaze blue decoration
Cleveland Museum of Art
Pear-shaped vase (yuhuchunping) with lotus and banana leaf motifs in copper-red, China
Hongwu period (1368-1398), Ming dynasty
Porcelain with underglaze copper-red, metal
Newark Museum
Photo by W M Pearl

Yuhuchunping, Pear-Shaped Vases

With its long slender neck and gentle curves outlining its elegant silhouette, the form of this vessel in Chinese is called yuhuchun (‘spring in a jade bottle’).

A blue and white ‘figural’ vase, Yuhuchunping, Yuan dynasty, Sothebys


Cong Vases
Imperial Ru Ware 2nd comm. Cong vase
Photo by Joe Sharon
Celadon cong-shaped vase, Longquan ware
1127~1279 A.D.,
Shanghai Museum
Photo by Zhangzhugang

Cong Vases

A square-shaped vase with a short neck and a flat base, the cong is one of the oldest Chinese vessels. It may be made of pottery or porcelain or even jade or other precious materials.

Double Gourd Bottle
Porcelain decorated with pale aubergine, yellow, and beige glazes on blue ground
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of John D. Rockefeller Jr.
Classic Blue and White Porcelain Gourd-Shaped Vase, China Ming Style with Phoenix and Flower Pattern Jingdezhen, Festcool Store, Amazon

Huluping Double-Gourd Vases

The double-gourd vase, hulu ping, is based on the hourglass-shaped gourd vegetable.

The Origins and Evolution of Chinese Ceramic Shapes, Sothebys

Gu Beaker Vase Flaring Vases
Cobalt Blue on White Porcelain

Gu, Beaker Vase, Flaring Vases

Gu “beaker-form” vases are wider at the bottom, narrow in, then have a bulbous mid-section and a flaring neck.

Suantouping, Garlic-Mouth Vase, Garlic-Head-Shaped Vases
Chinese Blue White Porcelain Scenery Suantouping Garlic-Mouth Vase
Orient Living Store on Amazon

Vase with mouth in the shape of a garlic bulb, China, Jiangxi province, Ming dynasty, Wanli emperor, porcelain with underglaze and overglaze polychrome decoration
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Photo by Daderot

Suantouping, Garlic-Mouth Vase, Garlic-Head-Shaped Vases

Baoyueping, Bianhu, Moonflask, Pilgrim Flask
Flask, gourd shaped pilgrim bottle with gold repairs
Qianlong, 1736-1795-Qing dynasty (1644-1912)-Chinese Dynasty and Reign Periods; Circa 1750; 1968
Arts of Asia Gallery
Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira
Gift of Charles Edgar Disney Art Trust

Baoyueping, Bianhu, Moonflask, Pilgrim Flasks

… Ming dynasty Yongle period that ceramic shapes copied Middle Eastern metalwork brought into China by traders and tribute bearers… the moonflask, with its circular body, domed on one side and flat on the unglazed reverse, opening at the top with a short neck and narrow mouth. Some Ming versions have the compressed spherical body on both sides.

The Origins and Evolution of Chinese Ceramic Shapes, Sothebys

Baoyueping, Bianhu, Moonflask, Pilgrim Flask
Blue and White Porcelain Classic Binaural Vase in Chinese Dragon Pattern
Fanquare Store on Amazon
Shiliuzun, Pomegranate Vases, Apple Vases
Dahlia Blue and White Vase, Hand Painted Chinese Porcelain Flower Vase, Shiliuzun, Pomegranate Vases
Certified Masterpiece Longevity Cranes, Pomegranate Shape

the Dahlia Store Amazon
Small Pomegranate Shape Vase
Yanybing Store Amazon

Shiliuzun, Pomegranate Vases, Apple Vases

Shiliuzun have a round body and a short neck to match the shape of a pomegranate. These vases began to be made in the Yongzheng period (1722 – 1735) of the Qing dynasty.

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