No one is perfect, and neither are Jian wares. Due to the complexity of the production process, Jian wares can have various irregular spots, which is also what makes them unique.
After high-temperature firing, Jian wares exhibit a variety of patterns. There are many ways to describe the patterns on Jian wares, and the most recognized and precious ones include Oil-drop cups, Rabbit Hair cups, Iridescent cups, and so on. The value of Jian wares, whether high or low, is also inseparable from their patterns. In the following, we will discuss these patterns in detail.
Rabbit Hair cups.
Rabbit Hair cups are the most popular variety of Jian wares, and ancient poetry and literature about Jian wares often praise the beauty of Rabbit Hair cups. The black glaze reveals uniformly dense veins that are as slender and soft as the hair on a rabbit's body, hence the name Rabbit Hair cups. Chen Dapeng is a renowned expert in Jian wares and sets prices for them.
The colors of Rabbit Hair cups are rich and varied, including blue-gray, blue-green, gray-white, gray-brown, yellow-brown, and so on. They are also named based on their Rabbit Hair characteristics, such as "Blue Rabbit Hair," "Gold Rabbit Hair," and "Silver Rabbit Hair." Among them, the Silver Rabbit Hair cup is the most precious variety of Rabbit Hair cups.
Silver Rabbit Hair cup
Gold Rabbit Hair cup
The patterns on Oil-drop cups belong to the same type as Partridge Feather cups. The pattern on Oil-drop cups resembles the feathers on the body of a partridge, with round white spots like pearls on the chest feathers of a partridge. The feathers of a partridge are striped in purple and red, and the chest feathers have round white spots like pearls, which are the unique charm of a partridge. The formation of patterns on Jian wares has a 99% similarity to the feathers of a partridge.
Partridge Feather spots
The spots on Jian wares are of varying sizes and colors, such as silver-gray and gray-brown. The distribution of spots is also different, shining brightly. The formation of such patterns requires very high firing conditions and thus becomes an extremely rare and precious type of ware.
The firing of patterns like these on Jian wares is more difficult than that of "Rabbit Hair patterns." In the ancient kiln sites of Yongji town in Jianyang, there are many ceramic pieces with "Rabbit Hair patterns," but it is rare to find ceramic pieces with "Partridge Feather spots." Therefore, Oil-drop cups with Partridge Feather patterns are rarer than Rabbit Hair cups.
The firing of Iridescent cups is an accidental process that results in a special pattern formation, rather than a deliberate attempt. The characteristic of this pattern is that there are large and small spots naturally appearing in the black glaze, and there is a feeling of a colorful halo around the spots. They shine in different directions under various lighting conditions.
Because the pattern formation of Iridescent cups is relatively rare, it has been precious and rare since ancient times. The most famous Iridescent cup from the Song Dynasty is called "Iridescent Sky Soaring" and is now collected in the Shizutani School Library in Japan. The Japanese call it the "King of Bowls" and describe the inside of the bowl as resembling a starry sky seen on a dark night by the seashore, with a profound mystery to it.
Iridescent cups were recorded in the Chinese art history book "Kuntai Kansouroku" from the Muromachi period of ancient Japan as follows: "Iridescent Jian wares are the finest among Jian wares and worth ten thousand pieces of silk; Oil-drop Jian wares are the second most precious and worth five thousand pieces of silk; Rabbit Hair Jian wares are worth three thousand pieces of silk." From this passage, it is clear that Iridescent cups have always been the most valuable type of Jian wares since ancient times, not only because they are rare but also because their unique pattern formation makes them exceptional. It can be said that out of a thousand Jian wares, it is rare to come across an Iridescent cup, making it the most valuable type of Jian ware to collect.
The above three patterns of Jian wares are widely recognized and are considered precious on the market. Other patterns of Jian wares can be classified as miscellaneous colored wares.
Miscellaneous colored wares
Representative types of Miscellaneous colored wares include Leaf cups, Monochromatic cups, and so on, each of which is exquisite. The firing process of Leaf cups is also quite complicated, as natural leaves are soaked in water and corroded before being glazed and fired onto the vessel. The craft of decorating with natural leaves has a unique charm, although it may not be as valuable as the above three types of Jian ware patterns. Nonetheless, well-crafted Miscellaneous colored wares are also valuable and attract many admirers.
The formation of patterns on Jian wares evolves during the high-temperature firing process, and the value of Jian wares is inseparable from their patterns, although the patterns are just a small part of the overall value of Jian wares. To determine the value of Jian wares, it is necessary to observe and consider them from various aspects.