Important Cultural PropertyWhite porcelain phoenix-head jar

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  • 1 piece
  • H 28.5
  • Tang period/7th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • TG-645
  • Donated by Yokogawa Tamisuke

This jar has been widely known early on as an outstanding example of white porcelain from the Tang period. The top part (hōshu, mythical bird's head) works as a lid, with a bar-shaped stopper at the bottom. The eyes of the mythical bird are colored with iron paint and the handle on the back has a shape of two cords put together. There are concentric circular patterns carved on the bottom side of the foot, which are thought to imitate the characteristic details of glassware. The glaze, applied thinly to the entire surface, has lost its gloss after many years, one of the reasons for which seems to be that the temperature was not high enough when it was fired.
Jars with a mythical-bird head have their origin in the Sassanid Empire, as they are called also as kohei (Persian jar). Although it is thought that jars of this type were originally made of metal, this piece displays excellent skills in utilizing the feel of white porcelain. The curve of the body part is particularly exquisite. The exact place of production is not known, but it is certain that it was made somewhere in northern China, considering the quality of the base material and the touch of glazing. The time of production is probably the early Tang period.

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