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Iron black/brown Painted Motif
Another outstanding contribution of the Cizhou potters was painting of traditional Chinese art painting on the wares. During the late Northern Song period, painted iron black/brown motif emerged. There were very few that could be dated confidently to the Late Northern Song phase. Most were from the Jin period during which this particular decorative technique became the dominant form and was developed to great sophistication and maturity. The potters drew their inspiration from Chinese ink painting. The material for the drawing was prepared from a high iron oxide rock called Ban Huashi (班花石）in Chinese.
Besides Hebei kilns such as those in Guantai (观台）, Dong Aikou (东艾口), Yezi Cun (冶子村), Pengcheng (彭城) and Linshui (临水), those in Henan such as Xinmi (新密), Jiaxian (郏县), Yuzhou (禹州), Lushan (鲁山), Yiyang (宜阳), Hebi (鹤壁) , Shanxi Jiexiu (山西介休) and etc., also produced them. Some of the best products in this category could be found in Yuzhou Pacun kiln (禹州扒村). It is typified by white glaze and glossy black motif. Cizhou iron-painted motifs were much appreciated by the common folks and served as the blue-print for painted decorations in subsequent Yuan Blue and white.
According to Nigel Wood in his book Chinese glazes, the Cizhou glaze is unusually low in calcium oxide and high in alumina. Hence, it is viscous and greatly controlled the diffusion of the underglaze iron pigments and the motif thus retained its sharpness.
Many of the iron-painted drawings, especially those dated to the Northern Song/Jin period, were of very high standard. They were executed in strong and spontaneous strokes which exudes an energy that is pleasing and invigorating to the viewer. In some pieces, some of the final details of the painted motif is incised, such as the veins of the leaf or feathers of the birds. Some of the iron-painted wares from the Jin period were covered with lead-green glaze. Those that were covered with torquoise glaze made its first appearance during the Yuan Dynasty.
The pillow is one category of the vessels which one can fully appreciate the rich varieties of iron painted subjects which the Cizhou potters were capable of depicting with much maturity. They consisted of subjects such as frolicsome infants, animals, birds, flowers, poetic inscription, landscape, episode taken from plays, historical event and etc. In terms of varieties, those from Hebei Cizhou were most varied and interesting. Some of the pillows also carried impressed mark of the factory such as the famous Zhang Jia zao (张家造). Many of those with this mark orginated from Dong Aikou (东艾口) and Yezi Cun (冶子村) kilns in Cixian. There are also others with other surname such as Wang (王), Li (李) , Zhao (赵)and etc. It indicated that there were specialised workshops that produced such items. Many of the bean shaped, hexagonal and ruyi shaped pillows has a standard composition. The flat surface is decorated with the main motif whereas the wall is decorated with classic scrolls. There are also those which the walls are not decorated.
During the Yuan Dynasty, the pillow evolved into the rectangular form with a length of more than 40 cm. One famous category has the Fuyuan Wang Jiazao (滏源王家造) wordings usually written on the back wall of the pillow. Such pillows were made in kilns in Pengcheng which is situated near the source of the Fuyang river, ie Fuyuan (滏源). Many of the Yuan pillow has main motif which depicts scene from historical event or Yuan plays. Many of those with calligraphic inscriptions were poems from the Yuan Dynasty.
Jars constitued an important category of consumer items and many are dated to Yuan period. There are those large jars with a bulbous body and more elongated form with lugs which were used mainly to store wine. The usuage is clear as stated on the jar such as the name of the wine "Li Hua Bai" (梨花白) or name of the wine/food establishment "Ren He Guan" (仁和馆).
Large basin constituted another very important group of consumer items. Those dated to Pre Yuan tends to be taller, while the made from Yuan onward are flatter and wider. Fishes, wild geese and lotus were some of the most popular motifs used to decorate such items.
During the Yuan period, most of the bowls were decorated with simple decoration such as stylised flowers or a chinese character or a short inscription. During this period, instead of using spurs as separator for stacking during firing, the potters changed to using sandy lumps which left sandy patches on the interior and foot of the bowls and plates.
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