"Tenmoku" Tea Bowl


"Tenmoku" Tea Bowl

ceramics / Yuan Dynasty / Ming Dynasty / China

Place of production:China

Yuan–Ming dynasty, 14th–15th century


高6.9 口径12.0 高台径3.9


This tea bowl was used for making matcha tea.

The surface of the bowl was coated with two different glazes before firing. This is called “ash covered” glaze because it looks like the bowl is covered with ash. Tea bowls of this type are called “Tenmoku.” “Tenmoku” is the Japanese pronunciation for “Tianmu,” the name of a mountain in northern Zhejiang Province in China. The name originates from a story which says that a Japanese Buddhist monk who studied on Mt. Tianmu brought back tea bowls that were used in that area.

The family of the Ashikaga Shoguns had a low opinion of ash-covered Tenmoku tea bowls and considered them useless. In the latter half of the 16th century, however, a movement that emphasized elegant simplicity in tea ceremonies became widespread. As a result, Tenmoku tea bowls came to be highly valued by military leaders and tea masters.

Take a closer look at the tea bowl. The finely mottled, gray pattern in matte finish on black glaze creates a novel appearance. The coat of glaze is thin, and the marks of the potter’s wheel are visible underneath. The lips of some Tenmoku tea bowls narrow and then flare outward to make them easier to drink from. The flared lip of this example, however, is slightly warped and shallow. Its interior is broad and deep, which makes it ideal for making matcha.

Try to picture the color contrast that the deep green of matcha would create against the black tea bowl.

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