Gong fu tea dish

Started by Bok, Dec 01, 2016, 16:07:07

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Dear all,

I have found this small dish in a vintage/antique/curiosities shop in Taipei among a pile of old ceramics.

Most of the pieces seemed to be rather vintage from the 1930 onwards, but that particular dish looks to me more like Qing or early Republican. Has some firing defaults around the bottom rim, chipped and cracked ? but I like it for its wabisabi look!

This particular dish is used for the so called gong fu or Chaozhou tea brewing style. It is where the usually small teapot is put and the dish collects the overflow water that happens when brewed in this style. That is why there is a circle of unglazed surface on the inside. My guess it serves to increase fraction and let the pot sit more stable and keep it from sliding (?). At least that makes sense to me from my own tea brewing experience.

This kind of brewing is mostly native to South China, from where it made its way to Taiwan. Gongfu brewing probably originated in the Ming-Qing transition period. Nowadays the in Taiwan perfected tea ceremony makes its way back to China, very popular among the rich and affluent even in Northern areas where this kind of preparation was previously unheard of.

Anyways, long story short, any input on age or provenance is highly appreciated!


Inside top view:


And another side view


Hi, has been a while... :-)

First as to the tea brewing here in Taiwan. Gongfu or laoren cha seems to be specifically popular in Fujian province and Taiwan, and perhaps some adjoining areas, as you probably know. However, this sort of bowl has no specific connection with tea. Many brewing this sort of tea like to use old bowls to empty the content of the teapot into, when changing the tea leaves, but it could be any type of container. So that is the purpose you see, but it depends on the people on what they use for this.
I have not seen this specific bowl pattern, but there are many similar ones. It is most likely mid or late Qing dynasty, and was made for the common folks for eating.

The unglazed ring is usually found only in bowls which have a relatively flat bottom. In the kiln items are stacked to save space. Bowls with this sort of unglazed ring had the glaze removed by scraping or wiping it off before firing. This allows that another bowl is directly placed on top if this bowl, and then the next and the next, a whole stack.
When stacking them it is necessary to prevent that the bowls stick together after firing. The liquified glaze acts as a powerful glue, and often items sticking together this way are destroyed when they are separated. An unglazed inner ring where the unglazed foot rim of the bowl on top is placed does not lead to them sticking together.


Peter, thank you very much for the informative answer! Learned something new today, and from my pottery experience I should have thought about that? I got mislead as I never saw this kind of bowl, except when used in gong fu settings. Very interesting.