About Ru Kiln
▼ About Ru Kiln
Ru kiln is one of the five famous kilns (Ru, Guan, Ge, Jun, Ding) in Song Dynasty, it is located in Ruzhou, hence its name. Now, the kiln site is in Qingliangsi Village, Daying Town, Baofeng County, Henan Province. Ru porcelain ranks the first among the five famous kilns in the porcelain history. Ru kiln has one of the famous traditional porcelain techniques, and Ru porcelain is the representative porcelain of the Northern Song Dynasty.
Ruzhou had a long history of cultural accumulation, with abundant natural resources and merchants from all over the places. The governing of Zhenguan (title of the reign of Li Shimin, 2nd emperor of the Tang Dynasty) made the economy of Ruzhou enjoy unprecedented prosperity. The development of ceramics in Ruzhou promoted the prosperity of ceramics industry. The prosperity of the porcelain industry in Ruzhou showed the advanced porcelain techniques since the ancient times. Ru porcelain began to be fired from the middle of the Tang Dynasty, thrived in the Northern Song Dynasty, and it occupied a prominent position in the history of ceramics in China.
In the Northern Song Dynasty, the feudal official set up a kiln in Ruzhou, named Ru kiln. Zhouhui, scholar of the Southern Song, wrote in his article “Ru porcelains with agate glaze were exclusively used by the royal palace, only those were regarded unqualified by the royal palace could be sold. They were extremely rare.” Yezhi, another scholar of the Song Dynasty, described Ru porcelain in his article “The white porcelain produced in Dingzhou was not used in the Song Dynasty for its dazzling and glaring, hence celadon kiln was set up in Ruzhou. There were also other celadon kilns in the country, but Ru kiln ranked first.” At the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, it went through the invasion of Jin. The royal families of the Song Dynasty migrated to the South, and Ru kiln was destroyed during the long-term chaos caused by war, the porcelain techniques were also lost. Folk kilns in Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties still continued to fire Ru porcelain, but they were not successful for various reasons.
The body of Ru porcelain is fine and glossy, just like the color of incense ashes. The ground glaze has a little of pink color. Different from other celadon at the same period, Ru porcelain has the unique style, with light azure of different shades. The glaze of Ru porcelain is bright and smooth, and glaze colors include pea green, light greenish blue, bluish white, onion green, etc. Ru porcelain has unique color with precious agate as glaze, it has the reputation of “The agate glaze porcelains spread through the ages.” Viewing its glaze color with the light changes, as if it had the beauty of “the broken cloud in the clear sky after the storm”, mild and simple. The glaze of Ru porcelain is full and bright, with a few bubbles, which were called “as sparse as morning stars”. These bubbles were flickering under light, resembling shining stars. We can see some sparse bubbles embedded in the middle and bottom of Ru porcelain fracture surface. Observing the glaze surface with magnifying glass, the bubbles in the middle present in sparse stars in the glaze layer. The crack stripe on the glaze surface is as thin as a cicada's wings, so it is also called crab claw pattern, ice crack pattern, fish roe pattern, etc. One of the features of Ru porcelain is the sesame-shaped support pin, that is the pin marks at bottom of porcelain utensils with the shape of sesame. The marks are shallow, some of them are as large as rice. Most of the pin marks of Ru porcelain are of the size of sesame, which is rare in other kilns.
▼ Shape arts
Ru porcelain has its special mien with exquisite workmanship, glossy glaze surface, elegant and pure charm. It is a epoch-making mark in the history of celadon development.
The shapes of Ru porcelain include plate, bowl, vase, writing-brush washer, statue, cup holder, narcissus tub and so on. Shapes of vases are abundant, such as paper-mallet vase, Yuhuchun vase and gall-shaped vase. Domestic porcelains of Ru kiln include vase, statue, cup holder, bowl, plate, writing-brush washer, casket, narcissus tub and so on, some of them have embossed and printed decoration or with the design of reign title on the bottom, which is depicted with knife or uses the crafts of printing and stamping back. For instance, azure flower-pattern swan neck vase, light greenish blue lotus cup holder, azure lotus petal deep-belly jar, azure peony dragon-pattern pot, lotus-pattern pot, radiating-pattern lotus-leaf ware holder, radiating-pattern contracted mouth flower pot (collected in Henan), dark-flower double-fish plate (collected in Britain). Besides, there are also characters on some porcelains, such as “Fenghua” on the surface of statues, vases, dishes and “Caibing” on the surface of small dishes and writing-brush washers. Porcelains with the characters of “Fenghua” may be exclusively used in Fenghua Palace of the Song Dynasty. Although characters are not designed for decoration, they interest and charm of appreciation for porcelains. The shapes are also divided into footwraps, flat bottom, three feet, hollow feet, sunflower-shaped mouth, narrow edge and wide edge, etc. Shapes of plate are footwraps, hollow feet, flat bottom, straight mouth and lotus mouth. Other porcelain utensils are three feet writing-brush washer, bow string pattern statue (casket), box set, square pot, round pot as well as few porcelain sculpture crafts, such as lotus ware holder, lotus-leaf ware holder, hollow ware, bird and dragon, while some porcelains may use the decoration of flower, bird, insect and fish for catering to the leisure hobbies of royal members.
▼ Artistic Value
Ru kiln was vanished after the Northern Song Dynasty was defeated by Jin Dynasty. The opening period of Ru kiln was only 20 years, therefore, Ru porcelains handed down from the Song Dynasty were extremely rare, even in the Southern Song Dynasty. So there is a proverb, saying “Even if in possession of a large fortune, it can not equal to a piece of Jun porcelain”. Li Kuchan, the Chinese painting master, has said “The museum without Ru porcelain is imperfect.”
The genuine Ru porcelains handed down from ancient times are less than 100 pieces. What is clear is that there are 21 pieces in Taipei Palace Museum, 17 pieces in Beijing Palace Museum, 8 pieces in Shanghai Museum, 7 pieces in Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art. Another 10 pieces are collected by museums in America, Japan and personal collector. There are no more than 10 museums with the collection of Ru porcelains all over the world.
In 1992, a small Ru porcelain plate with a diameter of 6-8 cm was sold for 540 thousand in Sotheby's, New York. In Hong Kong, a piece of three-sacrifice statue fired by Ru kiln was sold for a sky-high price of HKD 50 million.
On March 5th, 2012, at Sotheby's Hong Kong 2012 spring auction, a single piece with the highest valuation is a azure-glaze sunflower-shaped washer fired by Ru kiln in the Northern Song Dynasty, it is small and exquisite, with a diameter of 13.5 cm, perfect color quality, and the uncommon shape of hexapetalous sunflower. The washer is also one of the 79 pieces of Ru porcelain existing in the world and its original valuation price is HKD 60-80 million. On April 4th, 2012, it was sold for HKD 185 million, setting up a new record of Ru porcelain auction price.