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A Song dynasty tea bowl?

I have what I believe is a Song dynasty tea bowl, and I am interested in its probable age and value, if any. We had a close family friend, Harry Caldwell, long time missionary to South China, especially Fukien province, in the first half of the 20th century. He was a tiger hunter, naturalist, and author of books such as The Blue Tiger, and South China Birds. He was once holder of the world record for a bighorn sheep trophy.

He provided many specimens over the years to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. I saw and handled his Savage tiger rifle years ago as a boy. He had a collection of about 300-400 of these Sung bowls and gave my mother one of them, perhaps the least perfect, before selling the rest to an ardent collector. Mr. Caldwell died years ago in Nashville, Tennessee, and I now have the one remaining bowl.

It is conical in shape, very similar to the ones at the bottom of the webpage (South Sung, jian ware) of the University of Wisconsin, but not as perfect as those. Mine is brown with black "reed" striping glaze design at the bottom inside and out. It has a round firing flaw on the outside near the bottom about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and the shape is not perfectly round, but a little skewed. I.e. the mouth is not perfectly circular and the top edge is not the same height all around. It has a small chip on the top edge, but has a certain charm to it. It measures 4 1/2 inches in diameter at the top, and the foot is a little over 1 inch in diameter.

My mother who gave it to me would like to give something of comparable value to my brother, so is curious as to its monetary value. Can you suggest any information that might help understand it better?


A perfectly genuine Song Dynasty "Temmuko"-bowl

As far as I can understand by your description you have a perfectly genuine Song Dynasty (960-1279) "Temmuko"-bowl. From your description probably with an unusual glaze called "Hares fur".

The firing flaw and other irregularities is normal and a good sign of its authenticity since ALL genuine antique Temmuko bowls in the market is excavated kiln wasters from it's place of production in the Fujian province. Excellent copies is made up to this day.

They were originally tea bowls which got very popular by Buddhist monks who drank tea as a way of keeping themselves awake during their nightly ceremonies during the Song dynasty. The name of this ware is actually the Japanese pronunciation "temmuko" of the Chinese mountain "Tianmu shan". According to tradition this Tianmu mountain was the site of a Buddhist temple visited by Japanese Buddhist monks who took these bowls back to Japan. A few of these old monk bowls are believed still to exist in Japan where they are individually named and kept as national treasures.

Regarding the value of your bowl I figure the personal attachment to a piece with a family history by far exceeds its monetary value. In an Antiques shop a bowl with the flaws you describe would be priced at around US 300 to 400 $. On an internet online auction a similar bowl would catch maybe 150 $ depending on what it looks like.

Sincerely
Jan-Erik Nilsson



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