Additions to the Chinese Collection

By: H. E. F.

Originally Published in 1931

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RECENT acquisitions in the Chinese section include a group of seven teen pieces of mortuary pottery. The pottery is of special interest because it was excavated in South China. The archæology of this region is practically unknown as yet, and few antiquities have been definitely known to come from there.

In deepening a pond on the land of the Mei Wa School, about two miles north of Canton, these pieces of pottery were uncovered. They had evidently been part of the tomb furnishings of some early graves. Some of those found were broken in the digging, but seventeen, differing considerably in size and style, were retrieved and brought to this country. It is reported that no other evidence of the graves was discovered on that site at the tin1e, but from the appearance of the pottery itself it seems probable that the pieces come from several tombs of different periods.

Three of the pieces very evidently belong together and are of particular importance [Plate XII]. All are of the same light buff sandy clay and show traces of a dark brown glaze. There is an incense burner, the cover of which contains three semi-circular slits and is surmounted by a ‘fleur-de-lys’ ornament. The second is the cover of a tripod of Ch’in dynasty type upon which are three reclining rams modelled in the round, and in the center a knob with a loose ring. Both pieces bear sketchy free-hand designs drawn in finely incised lines. But the most extraordinary piece is a ‘porringer’ bowl which is unique in spite of its typical Han shape. For instead of the usual dragon’s head for a handle, the head on the handle here is unmistakably that of a crocodile. This piece has retained more of the brown glaze than the other two. Inside may be seen two large drops of yellow-green glaze.

A bowl, incense burner, and a tripod cover
Plate XII — Early Chinese Pottery from Canton
Museum Object Numbers: 31-31-1 / 31-31-2A / 31-31-2B / 31-31-3
Image Number: 1626

This green glaze is the same which formerly ran down in wavy lines on the outside and inside of an ovoid jar eight inches high. The jar has four small horizontal loop handles at the shoulder. The glaze is now badly disintegrated. Other interesting pieces of the group are four which are of slate grey clay: a small house, a squat howl, a cup, and a flattened globular jar with small mouth and two loop handles. Two round jars with wide mouths arc of white clay decorated with impressed cross hatching and a row of small coin-like impressions. There are three pieces of celadon, a food bowl covered with a thin watery grey-green glaze with irregular brownish crackle, a small globular jar with glaze finely crazed, and a cover which seems to have belonged to a tall funeral vase. A miniature bowl and dog do not appear to belong with any of the other pieces.

No dates have yet been assigned to any of this pottery, although a number of the pieces are of Wei and T’ang types. The house (see cover device), jar, bowl and cup are of the slate-grey clay usually associated with the Wei period, but they may well be of later date. The presence of an incense burner indicates a date within the Buddhist period (after the third century A. D.) for the porringer group. The bowl with the watery celadon glaze can hardly be earlier than Sung.

The finding of these pieces is important because it shows that there is much archæological work to be done in South China that may be expected to yield objects differing from those of North China. The porringer with the crocodile head is a case in point; although references to the crocodile occur in Chinese literature, and it is held in some quarters that the dragon motive evolved from primitive pictures of crocodiles, nevertheless this porringer seems to be the first piece to he found with a representation of a crocodile.

Cite This Article

F., H. E.. "Additions to the Chinese Collection." Museum Bulletin III, no. 1 (November, 1931): 26-31. Accessed April 20, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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