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Kai-Yin Lo with her collection on view at Denver Art Museum1998.

Kai-Yin Lo’s White Wares

When in 1998 Kai-Yin Lo mounted an exhibition of her Chinese white wares entitled Bright as Silver, White as Snow at the Denver Art Museum, it was meant to be more than a showcase of a collector’s treasures. It was meant to celebrate something unique to China’s potters: the ability to create vessels of a pristine white out of earth. In the exhibition catalogue I started my essay by saying “The wish to create a ceramic ware that is white may well be as old as ceramics themselves”, but for lack of any proof had to tone down this bold statement in the following, since no proper white wares had been recovered from the Neolithic. In the meantime, archaeology has supported this claim.

Pure white pottery could for some time already be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC, when the Dawenkou and Longshan cultures of the Shandong peninsula produced exquisite vessels in a range of distinctive shapes; but more recently, the appearance of white earthenwares was pushed back even further, as an early site of the Gaomiao culture in Hunan, dating from the 6th millennium BC, yielded large quantities of white fragments decorated with complex pricked and incised geometric and representational motifs. White ware production is equally documented for the Bronze Age, and the circumstances of these various discoveries suggest that early white wares were prestigious treasures, held in high regard and possibly reserved for ritual functions.

Through the application of higher firing temperatures around the 5th/6th century AD it became possible to turn white ceramics from wondrous items of reverence into truly serviceable receptacles. Workmanship rapidly improved to provide an output of reliable quality as more and more kilns competed in specializing in white stoneware. While the local clientele quickly got used to this luxury that only China could provide, the beauty paired with practicality of her white wares continued to amaze foreigners for centuries to come.

The pieces offered here from the Kai-Yin Lo collection beautifully demonstrate the many different aspects this type of ware could adopt, depending on different raw materials, fuels and firing methods. The soft, warm tints of white produced in the north, fired with coal, where the Ding kilns of Quyang in Hebei provided the frame of reference, starkly contrast with the icy bluish tones of the south, created with wood firing, where Jingdezhen in Jiangxi reached outstanding excellence. Among them are true masterpieces of ceramic art, and it is only due to the exuberant production quantities during and around the Song dynasty (960-1279), that they are still so affordable.

Regina Krahl

A Dingyao barbed dish, Tang dynasty - Five dynasties

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Lot 1001. A Dingyao barbed dish, Tang dynasty - Five dynasties; 15.2 cmEstimate: 30,000 - 40,000 HKDLot sold: 163,800 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ProvenanceEskenazi Ltd, London.

ExhibitedRegina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 4.

NoteFive-pointed dishes of this style, inspired by Tang gold and silver ware, usually without carving, are rare.

A carved Qingbai 'boys' bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127)

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Lot 1002. A carved Qingbai 'boys' bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 19.8 cmEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKD. Lot sold: 107,100 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 39.

Note: The incised carving and fluid rendering of the boys attest to fine Northern Song work. Some suggest this type of conical bowl, a much crafted shape, was for tea drinking. However, due to its large size, it would be more accurate to say it fulfils the general functions of a bowl.

A Qingbai alms bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127)

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Lot 1003. A Qingbai alms bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 23 cm. Estimate: 40,000 - 60,000 HKDLot sold: 50,400 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 27.

A carved Qingbai 'floral' wine ewer, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279)

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Lot 1004. A carved Qingbai 'floral' wine ewer, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); 25 cm, with a later replaced coverEstimate: 30,000 - 40,000 HKDLot sold: 63,000 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 54.

NoteEwers for wine were made in large quantities, usually complete with warmers. They were one of the many qingbai wares intended for widespread use, not only for rulers and officials, but also for the common person.

A Jingxian white-glazed lobed dish, Five dynasties (907-960)

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Lot 1005. A Jingxian white-glazed lobed dishFive dynasties (907-960); 13,5 cm. Estimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 30,240 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 6.

NoteDishes of this shape were among the white wares unearthed at the Jingxian kilns in Anhui in April 1996. With their high-quality fine glaze, in a hue of faintest blue-green, and with well-proportioned thickish potting, these dishes were intended for use at court, and were often presented as tribute gifts.

By the Five Dynasties, southern white wares of this type had already reached a high level of craftsmanship.

A Cizhou white-glazed jar and cover, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127)

Lot 1006. A Cizhou white-glazed jar and coverNorthern Song dynasty (960-1127); h. 21.5 cmEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 37,800 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 24.

A Qingbai facetted vase, Yuan dynasty

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Lot 1007. A Qingbai facetted vase, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368); h. 20.5 cm. Estimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 37,800 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 57.

A carved Qingbai 'floral' bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127)

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Lot 1008. A carved Qingbai 'floral' bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 19.5 cmEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 52,920 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 41.

NoteThe fluidity of the carved lines makes this a highly appealing piece, datable to the later part of the Northern Song dynasty.

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Lot 1009. A moulded Qingbai 'twin fish' dish and a small Qingbai 'floral' bowlSouthern Song - Yuan dynasty (1127-1368); 14.2 and 9.5 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 81,900 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Provenance: bowl: Kochukyo, Tokyo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 48.

NoteFired upside down in saggars, dishes and bowls were unglazed at the rim. Since the Five Dynasties, they were often framed with a band of silver or gold, and more frequently copper. The application of precious metals added cachet to the porcelain.

A pair of Qingbai meiping, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279)

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Lot 1010. A pair of Qingbai meiping, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); 29.5 cm, with later replaced coversEstimate: 40,000 - 60,000 HKDLot sold: 214,200 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 46.

Note: The meiping is generally regarded as a container for wine.

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Lot 1011. carved Qingbai 'fish' bowl and a carved Qingbai 'crane' bowl, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); both 19 cmEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 94,500 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 43.

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Lot 1012. A Dingyao lobed bowlFive dynasties - Northern Song dynasty (907-1127); 21,5 cmEstimate: 30,000 - 40,000 HKDLot sold: 52,920 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 10.

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Lot 1013. Two white-glazed jars, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 11.1 and 14.3 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 16,380 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

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Lot 1014. Three Qingbai dishes, Song dynasty (960-1279); 10.5, 12.5 and 14 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 75,600 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedThe larger lobed dish and square dish: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. nos 34 and 53.

Note: Square dishes are unusual in white and Qingbai wares. Modelled after metal or lacquer ware, the Qingbai lobed dishes exemplify the elegant taste of the Song era.

A large Southern white-glazed alms bowl, Northern Song dynasty

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Lot 1015. A large Southern white-glazed alms bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 22 cmEstimate: 40,000 - 60,000 HKDLot sold: 81,900 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998 - 1999, cat. no. 28.

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Lot 1016. A small Qingbai lobed jar and cover and a small Qingbai octagonal vase, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); 22 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 88,200 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998 - 1999, cat. no. 55 and 56.

Note: This type of lobed jar with cover was for storing tea powder or spices.

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A lobed Dingyao 'lotus' dish, Northern Song dynasty

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Lot 1017. A lobed Dingyao 'lotus' dish, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 18.5 cmEstimate: 30,000 - 40,000 HKDLot sold: 94,500 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998 - 1999, cat. no. 11.

NoteThis dish has the characteristics of early Northern Song Dingyao and was used for tea or food.

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Lot 1018. A group of three vessels and covers, Song dynasty (960-1279)Estimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 63,000 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Comprising: - a white-glazed bowl and cover, d. 12.5 cm;

- a white-glazed four-handled jar and cover, h. 15.5 cm; and

- a Qingbai four-handled jar and cover, h. 14.5 cm

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedThe Qingbai and white-glazed four-handled jars:
Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. nos 32 and 50
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 Lot 1019. A moulded white-glazed 'twin fish' dish, Jin dynasty (1115-1234), and a Qingbai zhadou, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 18.8 and 18.6 cmEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 75,600 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Provenance: Zhadou: Kochukyo Co. Ltd, Tokyo.

Two Qingbai appliqué-decorated ewers, Northern Song dynasty

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Lot 1020. A moulded white-glazed 'twin fish' dish, Jin dynasty (1115-1234), and a Qingbai zhadou, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 12.5 and 20 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 69,300 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedRegina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. nos 31 and 51.

NoteThis type of ewers, probably made for widespread use, was meant for wine as much as water for brewing tea.

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Lot 1021. Two Qingbai lobed dishes, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 13.8 and 14 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 52,920 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no 36.

Note: Plain surface wares with begonia-shaped rims were abundantly produced in Hutian.

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Lot 1022. carved Qingbai 'floral' bowl, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), and a Qingbai lobed bowl, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 14 and 13.6 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 60,480 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. nos 44 and 33.

Note: The interwoven scrolling carving recalls northern Yaozhou ware.

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Lot 1023. set of four small Qingbai lobed dishes, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127); 6.8 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 88,200 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no 37.

Two Qingbai figures of courtiers, Southern Song dynasty

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Lot 1024. Two Qingbai figures of courtiers, Southern Song dynasty (960-1127); 18.6 cmEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 40,320 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

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Lot 1025. Two Qingbai ewers, Southern Song dynasty (960-1127); 13 and 9.5 cmboth with later replaced coversEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 69,300 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedLarger ewer: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. no. 52.

Note: The use of these ewers is debatable. The narrow spout rules out its use as a small tea pot, and water pots do not need lids. It is more probable that they were containers for sauces.

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Lot 1026. A carved Qingbai 'floral' lobed bowl, Southern Song dynasty, and a Qingbai lobed bowl, Song dynasty (960-1279); 16.3 and 16.7 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 69,300 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Exhibited'floral' bowl: Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998 - 1999, cat. no. 45.

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Lot 1027. A group of four vases, Yuan dynasty (1279-1368); 12.7 to 15.8 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 69,300 HKD. Lot sold: 52,920 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Comprising two small Qingbai reticulated 'lotus' vases; two small mask-handled vases in either Qingbai or white glaze.

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedRegina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998 - 1999, cat. no. 58 and 59.

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Lot 1028. A pair of carved Qingbai 'scalloped-edged leaves' bowls and covers, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); bowls: 9.6cm, covers: 11.2 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 882,000 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedRegina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998 - 1999, cat. no. 49.

Note: Due to their small size, these bowls have been containers for tea powder before brewing.

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Lot 1029. Two white-glazed bowlsFive dynasties - Northern Song dynasty (907-1127); 15.5 and 15.3 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 25,200 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

ExhibitedRegina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, cat. nos 8 and 9.

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Lot 1030. A small Dehua vase, Gu, early Qing dynasty, 17th century, and a blue and white 'dragon and shou-roundel' candle holder, Qing dynasty, 19th century14.5 cm; 8.5 by 40.5 by 11 cmEstimate: 10,000 - 15,000 HKDLot sold: 30,240 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

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Lot 1031. Regina Krahl, et al., Bright as Silver, White as Snow: Chinese White Ceramics from Late Tang to Yuan Dynasty, Denver Art Museum, Colorado, 1998-1999, and Kai-Yin Lo, Designing a Life: A Cross-Cultural Journey, 2019/2021. Estimate: 2,000 - 3,000 HKDLot sold: 5,040 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

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Lot 1032. A carved coral 'dragons' bead, Qing dynasty, 18th century, with a gilt-decorated bronze 'boys' stand, Late Ming dynasty; 4.6 and 7.6 cmEstimate: 30,000 - 40,000 HKDLot sold: 75,600 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Provenance: Coral: Acquired in Geneva, Switzerland, 1990s.

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Lot 1033. A gilt-lacquered wood figure of Buddha, Ming dynasty (1368-1644); 40 cm, hardwood standEstimate: 40,000 - 60,000 HKDLot sold: 81,900 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

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Lot 1034. An archaistic bronze vase, Gu, Ming dynasty (1368-1644); 22.7 cm, apocryphal Xuande markEstimate: 20,000 - 30,000 HKDLot sold: 56,700 HKD. (C) 2021 Sotheby's

Property from the collection of Kai-Yin Lo.

Provenance: J.J. Lally & Co., New York. 

Sotheby's. Chinese Art Online, including Song Ceramics from the Kai-Yin Lo Collection, Hong Kong, 26 August 2021