Important Cultural PropertyCeladon porcelain bowl, named Bakōhan

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  • Longquan ware
  • 1 piece
  • H9.6 aperture D15.4 base D4.5
  • Southern Song period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • TG-2354
  • Donated by Mitsui Takahiro

Among the celadon porcelain ware imported to Japan, this one is especially well-known, not only for its beautiful shape and the color of the glaze, but also for the episodes in its history. According to Bakōhan Saōki (record of tea-bowl with a 'large-locust' clamp), written in Kyōho 12 (1727) by Ito Tōgai, a Confucian scholar in the Edo period, this bowl was a gift from the Zen priest Busshō to Taira no Shigemori, in return for his donation of gold from Mt. Yuwang in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China in Angen 1 (around 1175). Later, in the Muromachi period it became a possession of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (ruled 1449-73). While Yoshimasa was using the bowl, it became cracked on the bottom, so he sent it to China to exchange it with another one of the same quality. However, as celadon porcelain ware of such a high quality was no longer available in China then, the bowl was sent back to the shogun with the crack merely fastened with a clamp. The bowl became valued even more highly because of this large clamp, which looked like a locust and the bowl was named Bakōhan (large-locust clamp).
The episode where it was given to Taira no Shigemori as a gift is hard to prove as a historical fact, judging from the changes in the styles of the Longquan celadon porcelain. However, the story of Ashikaga Yoshimasa has more credibility, since the bowl was owned by the Suminokura clan for many generations after the Ashikaga Shogun family. It has been kept in a Chinese lacquered box with damask lining, which strongly suggests that this bowl was sent from China for a reason.

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