Set of Cylindrical Tea Cups with Cormorant Design

  • Jingdezhen kiln, China
  • China, Ming period
  • 17c
  • Jingdezhen ware, Ko-sometsuke type
  • H-7.7 D-6
Catalogue Entry

During China's late Ming dynasty, there was a flourishing trade in so‐called sometsuke underglaze blue and white ware created at the Jingdezhen commercial kilns based on specific orders from Japanese tea ceremony masters. In Japan these wares are known today as “ko‐sometsuke," or literally “sometsuke wares which came to Japan in antiquity."

These cylindrical tea cups with cormorant images were originally made as small braziers used to hold a single coal for the lighting of tobacco pipes. They have also been used as cylindrical mukozuke dishes in the formal tea meal, with the person using them determining their use on each separate occasion. A large number of these cups would have been created at the time, and each is decorated with a group of cormorants drawn in a lively fashion by an experienced hand. The indigo of the underglaze blue is reflected off the white ground, and its pure glow would soothe the spirit of the person holding the cup.