With continual fresh developments in Jian ware firing technology, the vocabulary of terms related to it also keeps increasing. This article intends to explain the glaze color and firing methods and will also provide updated information on the same. There are broadly 3 types of glaze colors as explained in subsequent paragraphs.
UPDATED TERMINOLOGIES of
1. Hare's Fur
This is the most common glaze color that the Song dynasty artists used and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to state that this color represents their most famous masterpieces. It's so named as the patterns are very similar to a rabbit's fur in appearance. It's made by creating a fine and uniform strip on black bowl background. The Hare's fur Jian ware is further subdivided based on the strip color, which can be gold, silver, yellow, grey etc.
Hare's Fur Collected by Musée Guimet, France
Ye Lizhong---Golden Hare's Fur
Ye Lizhong---Blue Hare's Fur
This is a kind of crystalline glaze and is produced by distributing gold or silver-grey spots on black glaze. It's one of the rarest of the Jian wares from Song dynasty as it involved an extremely difficult firing process.
The word "oil-spot" has an ancient origin and is found in many Chinese texts.
The earliest recorded mention of the word discovered thus far is however in a 13th century Japanese literature. The best collection of this type of Jian ware is displayed in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka. Due to its popularity in the present market, most of the current generation artists in the Jianyang concentrate on making "oil-spot" Jian ware, each having its own unique characteristic.
Oil-Spot collected by the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka
Xie Chaoqiu's works
Zhou Jianping's work
Lin Changming's work
Feng Yong's work
Liao Chengjun's work
3. Yohen Temmoku
Shortly called Yohen, this Jian ware has irregular dots with the blue dazzling rainbow-like glow on the black glaze. Due to a highly difficult firing process, these were rare even during the golden era of Jian ware and were kept as proud possessions by the total elite families of Japan.
There are only three intact Yohen teacups from Song dynasty. These are preserved and showcased in the Daitoku-ji, the Kyoto National Museum and the Seikado Bunk Art Museum. The Seikado Yohen is a National Treasure of Japan. It's called the best teacup in the world and is indeed the most beautiful masterpiece of its kind.
Collected by the Seikado Bunk Art Museum, Japan
The following are the works of two Japanese masters, Yasushi Oketani and 林恭助:
Yasushi Oketani's Yohen
Among the firing methods, there have been various discoveries regarding ancient techniques:
1. Electric Kiln.
In this kiln, electricity is used to heat up the Jian ware at the desired temperature. The suitable atmosphere is maintained inside the kiln by adding quantitative pine once the required temperature is reached. This type of kin has a better temperature control mechanism as compared to the Imperial Kiln. This results in increased productivity as well as improved quality with fewer bubbles. This is why most craftsmen prefer an electric kiln.
2. Gas Kiln
As the name suggests, coal gas or natural gas is used to raise the temperature inside the kiln. A suitable atmosphere is maintained inside it by controlling the air inlet and exhaust, which dictates the concentration of carbon monoxide inside the kiln. As the controls are not as simple as an electric kiln, very few artists in Jianyang actually use it.
3. Imperial/Dragon Kiln
This type of kiln is fueled by pine so the point ash is there inherently in the kiln to get incorporated in the porcelain body. These inorganic substances in the pine ash react with the glazed surface at high temperatures to create molecular changes in it thereby providing a shiny and colorful appearance.
However, temperature control in the dragon kiln is quite difficult and hence close monitoring and high level of expertise is required. The mud used for making the pots should have high iron content, so that small bubbles can form easily on the glaze.
Jian ware production is a fairly challenging profession due to the high degrees of precisions involved in all steps as well as low production rate.
The following is a microscopic picture of the works produced by Sun Fukun in Imperial/Dragon Kiln: