Yohen Tenmoku Tea Bowl

  • Fujian-sheng - Guang-dong, China
  • China, Southern Song period
  • 12-13c
  • Jian ware, black glaze
  • H-6.6 D-12
    Handed down in Maeda family
Catalogue Entry

China, Song dynasty, 11th to 12th centuries
Jian ware, black glaze
Height, 6.5-6.6cm; mouth diameter, 11.8-12.1cm;
foot diameter, 3.9cm

There are 3 famous examples of yohen, or spotted tenmoku tea bowls, namely those in the Seikado Bunko Art Museum, in the Fujita Museum, and at Ryoko-in, Daitokuji. The present work was not published for many years and is an example of yohen tenmoku that has not been well-known. Thus, there are actually 4 extant yohen tenmoku tea bowls, not simply the three that have long been described. The Kundaikansochoki's "tsuchinomono" section notes that yohen tenmoku is unparalleled among Jian wares. This tenmoku form is one type of ware produced at the Jian kilns in China's Fujien province, and was named for the unusually beautiful crystalline patterns that appear spontaneously in the firing, an effect that differs from that found on so-called "oil-spot" or other forms of Jian ware.
Here, these distinctive starburst spots of color unique to the yohen tenmoku type appear mainly on the interior of the bowl. While the three bowls named above generally have their starburst spots of color formed from several joined dots of crystal, these starburst crystals appear individually here. The form of this bowl is that seen in the other yohen bowls, and indeed in most tenmoku bowls, with its regularly carved foot and the use of the Jian kiln's extremely fine-grained clay.

This bowl was transmitted through the Maeda family beginning with Maeda Toshitsune, and the details of its appearance are noted in the tea utensil records of the Maeda family. The exterior of the box lid is inscribed "Yohen" in silver dust characters which are said to be in the calligraphy of Kobori Enshu, and the bowl is accompanied by a mother-of-pearl inlaid cup stand and a bag made of futae zuru botankarakusa kinran brocade. Published in the Taisho Meikikan. TA