Sky-blue glazed vase with incised flower design, Ru ware

Date: Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127)
Provenance: Unearthed from an underground hoard in Qingliangsi village, Baofeng county, Pingdingshan, Henan province, 1987
Measurements: Height: 19.6 cm, Foot diameter: 8.4 cm, Mouth diameter: 5.8 cm

The Ru kilns rank first among the five most famous Imperial ceramic kilns of the Northern Song Dynasty. Extant Ru ware are scarce around the world, there being no more than 150 pieces in total, of which, those in the sky blue glaze are even fewer. There are only five Ru ware in sky-blue glaze surviving to date, only one of them taking the shape of a swan-neck vase and bearing an incised floral design in the world. Without any doubt, it is one of the most potent pieces at the Henan Museum.

This vase has a flared mouth, long neck, an oval drum body, and a ring foot. The entire body features a light sky-blue glaze with a green tinge, aside from the base of the foot which is unglazed; The glaze layer is relatively thick, producing a lustrous finish. The surface of the glaze features tiny crackles – a signature of Ru ware – with the archetypical sky-blue glaze color. The neck and body of the vase feature unconnected spray lotus patterns.

Since the lotus pattern first appeared on ceramics during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), after hundreds of years of development and change, by the time of the Song Dynasty, it had completely freed itself from religious influences and evolved into a beautiful and purely decorative motif.

Ranked among the five prestigious ceramic kilns of the Song Dynasty, the Ru kilns distinguished themselves through the glaze color of their products. Those fired for imperial use boasted a glaze color that was bright but not garish, soft but not dim, presenting a gentle and elegant quality like tranquil spring water. With the translucent coating of the glaze reminiscent of piled fat, Ru celadon is renowned in the ceramics world for its beauty, having been described as "resembling jade but not being jade."