Shufu ware porcelains, identified by the small characters shu and fu in the molded decoration, were produced at Jingdezhen during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty for ceremonial use in the Shumei Yuan, a bureau of military and civil affairs. They are distinguished by the thick, luanbai, or "eggshell-white," glaze that sometimes obscures their customary floral decoration. Shufu-type wares, without the official shufu inscription, were a common export ware in the Yuan, but only the best examples bore the characters designating them for official use.
Porcelain with egg white (luanbai) glaze
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Plate, 1279-1368. Porcelain with egg white (luanbai) glaze, 1 3/4 x 6 5/8 in. (4.5 x 16.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 37.135. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.135_bw.jpg)
overall, 37.135_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Plate: straight mouth; shallow curved belly; flat base; small circular foot. Walls of feet are wide. Inner base of foot has a nipple-like protrusion that suddenly rises. Saggars are used in the firing method. Base of plate and inner wall have stamped decoration of interlocking floral sprigs. Exterior is undecorated. In between floral sprigs on cavetto are 2 stamped characters "shu" and "fu", which are Yuan dynasty military organization, "shumi yuan," produced as Jingdezhen Ding ware porcelain. Luanbai glaze on interior and exterior. Translucent white glaze with slightly blue-green tone, similar to egg white color. Luanbai glaze has a low calcium content (about 5%). Potassium and sodium content is higher. Thus glaze sticks better. Firing range is rather wide. Lower section of circular foot and interior foot are unglazed. Daily used ware.
Condition: Intact, traces of brown earth encrustation still adhere to the base and the foot rim, and there are several small brown kiln blemishes on the inside of the bowl. The glaze in the center is considerably scratched.
Old Accession Card:
Shallow medium-sized bowl, Shu Fu ware, with a thick straight foot rim, a slightly convex base, broad shallow sides that spread outward for some distance before rounding upwards. Quite white porcelain covered save on the base with a very pale bluish white glaze which stops in an even line on the foot rim, and decorated on the inside with undulating lotus scrolls in low relief under the glaze. Also modeled in relief under the glaze are two characters placed opposite to each other on the inside of the rim, Shu Fu, literally, "pivot place" i.e. Imperial Palace.
Traces of brown earth incrustation still adhere to the base and the foot rim, and there are several small brown kiln blemishes on the inside of the bowl. The glaze in the center is considerably scratched. The characters Shu Fu on the inside have led to the designation of this bowl as Shu Fu ware, a Yuan ware mentioned in the Chinese ceramic literature. See R.L. Hobson "Chinese Pottery and Porcelain" Vol. I, p. 161-162: "The 'Ko Ku Yao lun' which was written about sixty years later than the publication of the memoirs of Chiang, (early 14th century) supplements this information in a short paragraph on 'Old Jao Chou wares.' Of the Yuan wares, it says 'those with small foot and molded ornament (yin hua) and the specimens inscribed inside with the characters shu fu are highly valued... "The "T'ao lu" has a paragraph on the shu fu wares which reflects (not always very clearly) these earlier accounts, adding that 'this is the ware made in the private (min) factories and supplied to the palace; the material has to be fine, white and unctuous clay, and thin specimens were preferred...Inside them were written the characters shu fu as a mark. At the time the private factories also issued imitations of these wares; but of the porcelains destined for the Emperor, only ten out of a thousand or one out of a hundred were selected. The private factories were unable to achieve uniform success.' The author has inserted the gilt and enameled, and a large number of the other wares mentioned in the Memoirs of Chiang and the ko lu yao lun in that irresponsible fashion which makes much of the Chinese ceramic literature exceedingly difficult to handle. Indeed, one is tempted to ask what was his authority for the statement that the 'private factories' made the shu fu ware, in spite of the very circumstantial tone of the passage."
The identification of this piece as Shu Fu ware, in spite of the foregoing, is by no means certain, and instead it could possibly be an 18th century imitation. However, the potting of the foot is more in the Sung than in the Ch'ing manner, and the lotus scrolls rather resemble Ming work. From these considerations, it would seem that the bowl perhaps might fall between the Sung and Ming periods, and hence after all be good Yuan work.
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