Large Genuine Ancient Ceramic Faux Bronze Votive Vase 100BC $299.99
For Customers outside of USA
Exceptionally Well Preserved, Large Genuine Ancient Ceramic “Spirit Goods” Votive “Bronze-Look” Pot/Vase BC100. Possibly an 18th or 19th Century Revival Imitative.
CLASSIFICATION: Ceramic Votive Pot.
ATTRIBUTION: In the Style of Ancient China, Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.).
Height: 204 millimeters (8 1/8 inches)
Diameter: 165 millimeters (6 2/3 inches) at bowl; 103 millimeters (4 1/8 inches) at top lip; 88 millimeters (3 1/2 inch) at base.
Notes: Artificial foliage shown is available upon request.
CONDITION: Exceptionally good, almost perfectly preserved. Entirely intact except for the assorted bumps, bruises, cuts and scratches (and a few tiny rim chips) consistent with burial since ancient times, as well as the normal potting blemishes associated with crude hand production. Ceramic glaze is mostly intact, but there is some decomposition and some crackling/crazing – entirely consistent with a 2,000 year old finish.
DETAIL: A splendidly preserved votive offering pot/vase which would have been an offering to a deceased ancestor. The bowl alone (excluding the neck) is the size of a very, very large honeydew melon. Beginning during the Han Dynasty grave/tomb interiors in ancient China were richly furnished with a wide variety of miniature objects, usually fashioned as replicas of actual possessions, animals (such as this), pottery vessels, food, even buildings. Called “spirit goods”, these items were used as substitutes for valuable possessions, and were usually produced in ceramic and oftentimes (especially in later dynasties) were glazed or colorfully painted. Bronze vessels were extremely popular starting in the Shang Dynasty (1700-1027 B.C.), especially with royalty and those of noble birth. It became quite common in the Shang and continuing through the Han Dynasty to place as votive offerings within a tomb ceramics which mimicked bronze vessels. This is one of those offerings, a ceramic vase/jar which clearly mimics a bronze vessel with handles. The wealthy elite's increasing interest in elaborately furnished tombs led to the mass production of armies of ceramic figures made using molds. In the case of the royal burial of the sole Qin Emperor, a terra cotta army of 6,000 was produced in full size.
Burial ceramics made during the Han Dynasty, through the Tang Dynasty and beyond, were often decorated with simple but colorful designs painted directly onto the unglazed fired pieces or with brown and/or green lead-based glazes that could be fired at low temperatures. What’s really remarkable with this faux bronze vessel is that with the exception of some mineralized soil deposits (which could be gently brushed or washed away by someone patient) it has emerged from the soil in wonderful condition! The ceramic glaze however does show its age. You can clearly see the telltale crazing or crackling of the glaze which is characteristic of ancient glazed finished. This is part of the decomposition process, and you can see a few areas where the glaze is so heavily oxidized that it is no longer glossy, rather it has been reduced to a powdering, rough feel to the touch. Again however, this is quite common with ancient ceramic and porcelain glazes. There are also a few of the virtually obligatory tiny rim chips – only two really, and very, very small. And there are as well a few tiny abrasions, nicks, etc., testament to lengthy burial in the soil. Nothing worthy of singling out, just the little “scars” typical of ancient ceramics.
As well there are the normal blemishes (warts, dimples, pimples and pits) one expects with earthenware crudely fashioned by hand. Consider the fact that these types of earthenware utensils are generally not recovered intact, typically they are found shattered into fragments (shards). Comparatively this is in extraordinary condition – and after presumably spending two thousand years buried some blemishes are not only expected, but almost obligatory! Nonetheless despite the unmistakable signs of having been buried for millennia, it is entirely intact, integrity undiminished, really in remarkable condition. There are a series of riblets visible, top to bottom, as well as two incised circumferential accent lines and one raised accent line, evidence of the potter’s touch of course, the result of being turned on a wheel, adding character to the piece. Overall it is a very attractive piece, a nicely preserved intact specimen of the ancient Chinese art of pottery. If you’d like a gorgeous ancient earthenware jar/vase to proudly display, you could not go wrong with this one. It is solidly shaped, nicely featured, and nicely proportioned.
Although it is probable that this specimen is much older, we would be remiss not to mention that there is conceivably some possibility that this piece might be a revivalist imitative produced for the European market of the 18th or 19th century. It is widely known that Chinese porcelain and other ceramic artwork was quite popular in Victorian Europe. Carrying Chinese porcelain from China to Europe was an industry for the seafaring mariners of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Entire fleets of sailing ships plied the trade, especially the Dutch and English. However in addition to porcelain, ancient Chinese ceramics were also extremely popular in Victorian Europe, where Chinese ceramic artwork was highly appreciated and in great demand.
Although the style of this specimen is very convincing and suggests it might indeed be of Han Dynasty origin, a large portion of the antique/ancient Chinese ceramics in Europe date to the 18th or 19th century, so it is quite possible that this is an imitative revival piece. Judging by the style it is likely considerably older, but only an $800 thermoluminescence test would establish this conclusively (and even then the reliability and accuracy of such testing is still debated). So we’ll simply err on the side of being conservative and suggest that you consider it a revival piece, and if it is indeed older, so much the better. However whether an antique several centuries old, or an antiquity several millennia old, this is a valuable and collectible piece of art.
HISTORY OF HAN EARTHENWARE: During the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) grave interiors were richly furnished with a wide variety of miniature objects, usually fashioned as replicas of actual possessions, animals, or buildings. Called “spirit goods”, these items were used as substitutes for valuable possessions, and were usually produced in ceramic and were glazed or colorfully painted. The wealthy elite's increasing interest in elaborately furnished tombs led to the mass production of armies of ceramic figures made using molds. In the case of the royal burial of the sole Qin Emperor, a terra cotta army of 6,000 was produced in full size. Burial ceramics made during the Han dynasty were decorated with simple but colorful designs painted directly onto the unglazed fired pieces or with brown and green lead-based glazes that could be fired at low temperatures.
HISTORY OF THE HAN DYNASTY: The History of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) actually begins in 221 B.C. when the western frontier state of Qin (Ch’in), the most aggressive of the Warring States, subjugated the last of its rival states, bringing the era of the Warring States to an end. For the first time most of what eventually came to be “China” was unified. The new Qin (Chin) King proclaimed himself a deity, and ruthlessly imposed a centralized nonhereditary bureaucratic system throughout the empire, establishing standardized legal codes, bureaucratic procedures, written language, and coinage. In an effort to even standardize thought and scholarship many dissenting Confucian scholars were banished or executed; their books confiscated and burned. To fend off barbarian intrusion, the fortification walls built by the various warring states were connected to make a 5,000-kilometer-long great wall. When the powerful emperor of Ch’in died, he was entombed in a massive burial mound. Recently excavated the royal grave revealed an army of more than 6,000 terra-cotta human figures and horses intended to protect the emperor's final resting place.
In ancient China his death was followed by a short civil war and the emergence of the Han Dynasty. The new empire retained much of the Qin administrative structure but retreated from the harsh and centralized rule by establishing vassal principalities in many areas. Confucian ideals of government were reinstated, and once again Confucian scholars gained prominent status as the core of the civil service. Intellectual, literary, and artistic endeavors revived and flourished. Technological advances included the invention of paper and porcelain. The Han Empire expanded westward, making possible relatively secure caravan traffic across Central Asia to Antioch, Baghdad, and Alexandria. Often called the “silk route”, it enabled the export of Chinese silk to the Roman Empire. The Earlier Han reached the zenith of its power under Emperor Wu Ti, who reigned from 140 to 87 BC. Almost all of what today constitutes China was under imperial rule.
HISTORY OF CHINESE CERAMICS: The first Chinese ceramics archaeologists have found date back more than 10,000 years. These were earthenware, which means they were made from clay and fired at the kind of low temperatures reached by a wood fire or simple oven. In China, most ceramics made before the Tang dynasty (600 A.D.) are earthenware. They may be glazed or unglazed, and are occasionally painted, often brightly colored. Stoneware ceramics are harder and less porous than earthenware and are fired at hotter temperatures—between 2100°F and 2400°F. At these high temperatures, the surface of the clay melts and becomes glassy. Although stoneware is usually waterproof, most stoneware ceramics are glazed for decoration. The glazes often contain ash, which allows the glaze to harden at stoneware temperatures.
During the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 B.C.) bronze metallurgy superceded ceramics as the favored art form of the ruling class. However both the ceramic and the bronze industries evolved into complex systems of production that were supported by the aristocracy. Decorative designs rich in symbolism were created first in bronze were then imitated in clay. Chinese burial customs included the tradition of placing clay replicas of material possessions, animals and people in the tomb to accompany the deceased and serve them in the next life. Although archaeological finds have revealed that glazed pottery was produced as early as 1100 B.C. during the Zhou dynasty, the production of glazed wares was not common until about 200 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. However from about 1000 B.C. onwards during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, primitive porcelain wares emerged. Real porcelain wares appeared in the Han dynasty around 200 A.D. In the process of porcelain development, different styles in different periods blossomed.
The production of porcelain became widespread by about 500 A.D. Using a special clay with ground rock containing feldspar, a glassy mineral, the material was fired at very high temperatures above 2400°F. The surface of the clay melts at such high temperatures and becomes smooth as glass. Early porcelains were undecorated and were used by the Imperial court and exported as far as the Middle East. For instance during the Han Dynasty principally celadon (green) and black porcelain were mainly produced. The famous blue and white porcelain was created with blue paint made from cobalt and then covered with a clear glaze, which can withstand the high temperatures of the kiln. The technical and creative innovations of Chinese potters are unique accomplishments in the cultural heritage of the world. Today, archaeological excavation and research in China are revealing new sites and new examples of the genius of the Chinese potter.
HISTORY OF ANCIENT CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Want to know a little more about the history of human civilization in ancient China? Click right here.
A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. Artifacts are mailed from the USA. Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is only shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. The cost for shipping this item includes delivery confirmation (you can track your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Additional items shipped together do result in a discount. The shipping weight of this item is 3 pounds. Various rates for shipping both domestically and internationally may be viewed here. A wide variety of cost-effective methods are available including surface mail, air mail, and expedited mail.