Bulb-bowl, stoneware with blue glaze, Jun ware, China, Jin-Yuan dynasty, 13th-14th century. Height: 9.2 cm, Diameter: 24 cm. C.105-1939. Eumorfopoulos Collection. © V&A Images

This bulb-bowl belongs to a type of ceramics known as Jun ware. Chinese ceramics are often categorized by the geographical area in which they were made, as the kilns of a particular region usually made only one or two types of ceramics at a given time in history. Jun ware was produced in the kilns of the Henan province and its height of production was during the Song dynasty (960-1279). It can be identified 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 revealing the colour of the fired clay beneath. 

While most Jun ware is relatively modest in size, many larger pieces, such as this, were made for the purpose of plant cultivation and often bear ‘earthworm trails’ in their glaze. Rather than applying the glaze to the body in several coats, Jun glazes were applied a single, thick coat. On larger pieces, The gaps that developed in the raw glaze as it dried were later fixed in firing, creating the ‘earthworm trail’ effect visible on bowl’s interior. Initially a fault in the process, this was later valued as a positive trait of larger Jun wares.

Bibliographic References: Kerr, Rose. Song Dynasty Ceramics. London: V&A Publications, 2004. p. 39, nos. 30 and 30a.