Contributed by Marjorie Chu (SEACS President 2005-2008)

This is one of my favourite ceramic pieces. In April 2010, I travelled with members of Singapore’s Southeast Asian Ceramic Society to visit some ceramic sites in China; the trip included a visit to Jingdezhen. This town has been producing porcelain for more than 900 years, and their kilns have fired wares from Yuen, Ming and Qing Dynasties to the present.

We made a stop at the Jingdezhen Jiayang Ceramic Workshop, whose kilns now make reproductions of imperial and commercial wares of these early dynasties: wares such as green glazed porcelain, various enamels: famille rose, famille verte, blue and white underglaze and monochromes.

The craftsmen worked on each item carefully, checking the measurements and thickness of the clay against the models placed in front of them in order to achieve as close a replica as possible. In the case of B&W ware, the craftsmen very deftly painted the motif onto the ‘leather-hard’ clay pieces, which were then sent to be dipped in a final coat of glaze. They were then stacked and assembled for firing at around 1,200 degrees in electric kilns, producing fine porcelain.

I chose this B&W underglaze-painted cricket container with its beautifully rendered phoenix and lotus motif. (Cricket fighting was very popular among royalty and commoners during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.)

I like the shape (drum-like) and the qingbai glaze (as opposed to white). There is even a hint of ‘heap and pile’ iron residual on the cobalt blue to simulate an Islamic cobalt effect!

Readers interested in learning more about Xuande cricket jars are encouraged to read Liu Xinyuan’s article “Amusing the Emperor: The Discovery of Xuande Period Cricket Jars from the Ming Imperial Kilns” in Orientations, Volume 26, Number 8 (September 1995), pp. 62-77.