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HOME : Chinese Art : Ming Dynasty : Ming Dynasty Celadon Bowl
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Ming Dynasty Celadon Bowl - NP.003
Circa: 1368 AD to 1644 AD
Dimensions: 21.5" (54.6cm) high x 4" (10.2cm) wide

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Upon leading a victorious rebellion against the foreign Mongul rulers of the Yuan Dynasty, a peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang seized control of China and founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368. As emperor, he founded his capital at Nanjing and adopted the name Hongwu as his reign title. Hongwu, literally meaning “vast military,” reflects the increased prestige of the army during the Ming Dynasty. Due to the very realistic threat still posed by the Mongols, Hongwu realized that a strong military was essential to Chinese prosperity. Thus, the orthodox Confucian view that the military was an inferior class to be ruled over by an elite class of scholars was reconsidered. During the Ming Dynasty, China proper was reunited after centuries of foreign incursion and occupation. Ming troops controlled Manchuria, and the Korean Joseon Dynasty respected the authority of the Ming rulers, at least nominally.

Like the founders of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.), Hongwu was extremely suspicious of the educated courtiers that advised him and, fearful that they might attempt to overthrow him, he successfully consolidated control of all aspect of government. The strict authoritarian control Hongwu wielded over the affairs of the country was due in part to the centralized system of government he inherited from the Monguls and largely kept intact. However, Hongwu replaced the Mongul bureaucrats who had ruled the country for nearly a century with native Chinese administrators. He also reinstituted the Confucian examination system that tested would-be civic officials on their knowledge of literature and philosophy. Unlike the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), which received most of its taxes from mercantile commerce, the Ming economy was based primarily on agriculture, reflecting both the peasant roots of its founder as well as the Confucian belief that trade was ignoble and parasitic.

Culturally, the greatest innovation of the Ming Dynasty was the introduction of the novel. Developed from the folk tales of traditional storytellers, these works were transcribed in the everyday vernacular language of the people. Advances in printmaking and the increasing population of urban dwellers largely contributed to the success of these books. Architecturally, the most famous monument of the Ming Dynasty is surely the complex of temples and palaces known as the Forbidden City that was constructed in Beijing after the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yongle, moved the capital there. Today, the Forbidded Palace remains one of the hallmarks of traditional Chinese architecture and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the vast nation.

It is thought that the pale green glaze called Celadon was originally developed in Ancient China in order to evoke the shades of jade. Today, the term can refer to either the glaze, which actually comes in a variety of colors, or to the wares themselves, specifically those of the popular pale green color. Celadon production in China is particularly associated with the region of Longquan in southwestern Zhejiang Province. Longquan Celadon, considered the finest in China, was an important part of China’s export economy for over five centuries spanning the reigns of the Southern Song, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties. While Longquan wares were traded throughout East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe, they were most celebrated in the Islamic world, where they were exported in great numbers. It was recorded that the great Ayyubid Sultan Saladin sent forty pieces of Celadon wares to the Sultan of Syria in 1171. Some scholars have even proposed that the word “Celadon” itself is a corruption of “Saladin.” Potters across Central and Southeast Asia also adopted the use of Celadon glazes, and some of the most magnificent examples of Celadon wares come from Goryeo era Korea. - (NP.003)


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