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Jar in bronze form zun, stoneware with shiny blue glaze, Jun ware, China, Yuan or early Ming dynasty, 1279-1370. Height: 21 cm, Diameter: 22.2 cm. Museum no. C.171-1938. From the Eumorfopoulos collection [2007] © V&A Images

Large Jun ware jar in bronze form 'zun', stoneware with shiny blue glaze. Numeral 'four' incised on base.

This vase belongs to a type of ceramics known as Jun ware, and is made a shape known as zun. Zun is the name given to bronze vessels in this shape, and was a popular shape for ceramics of the early Ming dynasty, making the dating of this piece problematic. Jun ware was produced in the kilns of the Henan province and its height of production was during the Song dynasty (960-1279). Despite its likely date of the Yuan or early Ming dynasty, this vase can be identified as Jun ware visually by its coarse stoneware body and its thickly applied glaze, which through firing gained an opalescent blue colour. At the edges the glaze ran thin, becoming semi-transparent and creating the simple and elegant colouring of this piece.

Some types of Chinese ceramics were made exclusively for the imperial household. Jun wares, however, were mostly made for popular use and were not widely collected before the late Ming dynasty, when they were first mentioned in scholarly writings. By the Qing dynasty their status had elevated, when the Qianlong emperor (reigned 1736-95) was an admirer of them and used them for decorating his domestic spaces.

Bibliographic ReferencesKerr, Rose. Song Dynasty Ceramics. London: V&A Publications, 2004. p. 37, nos. 28 and 28a.