Generally speaking, the metal, stone, wood, and ceramic bowls made throughout Asia over the last several hundred years are simpler in shape and decoration than vases of the same period. That's because bowls are more purely functional than vases, meant to hold foods such as noodles or soup, designed primarily to be used rather than admired. Which is not to say their forms cannot be beautiful, as anyone who has eaten out of a steep-sided, bullet-shaped bowl or a wide, footed saucer knows.

Ceramic bowls range from porcelain to red clay. Glazing treatments include intricately decorative and pictorial compositions featuring dragons, lions, flowers, fruits, and gourds. Others are virtuoso exercises in color, be it a classic celadon container, a copper-red orb accented by a white lip wrap, or a flambe treatment, in which the glaze seems to be ignited from below.

One pattern that became particularly popular in China and was made exclusively for export in the 1850s is still known as rose medallion. It’s characterized by a gold circle enclosing a bird and flower in the inside-center of the bowl, surrounded by scenic panels set within floral borders. Other versions of this motif include, rose mandarin, rose canton, cabbage, and bird and butterfly.

In Japan, blue-and-white Imari porcelain bowls, some lidded, some not, were produced alongside red, gold, and blue examples. While most of these bowls were meant to hold food, wider examples with half-circle notches carved into their rims were used by barbers, who would rest the bowls against the necks of their customers to catch the hair they were trimming. Satsuma bowls made for export to the West in the 19th century included square bowls with tapering sides, decorated inside and out. And for hundreds of years, hand-formed raku ware has been the ceramic of choice for tea bowls, which are differentiated from tea cups for their lack of handles.

In Tibet, bowls can serve another purpose. Tibetan singing bowls are technically bells thought to bring healing through their tones and vibrations. Used in Buddhist meditation, antique singing bowls are made of a bronze alloy that includes copper, tin, nickel, silver, gold, and zinc. A good singing bowl makes several tones at once, which careful listeners can discern.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

A Fine, Very Rare Chinese Kraak Bowl With Stork Mark, Probably Late Ming / WanliExceptional Chinese Imperial Daoguang Mark Period Famille Rose Immortals BowlA Fine Late Ming, 16thc, Kraak Porcelain Bowl, ~1570-1590. 21 CmA Good Kangxi Powder Blue And Under Glaze Red Bowl, ~ 1700A Late Ming, Tianqi Period, 1621-1627, Blue And White Porcelain Bowl. A Good B&w Transitional, Mid 17thc, Chinese Porcelain Bowl With Landscape.A Very Rare Chinese Porcelain Kangxi Period Bowl With Underglaze Red FishImportant Sign Chinese Paktong Silver Etched Scenic Imperial Figural Basin Bowl Superb Chinese Porcelain Blue White Bowl Vase Figures Mark - Kangxi Period 18thFine C1770 Chinese Qianlong Famille Rose Imperial Figures Scenic Punch BowlA Good Late 17th C Kangxi Blue And White Bowl With Two Phoenix Rare Antique Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Planter Bowl 19th Cent Fine QualityAntique Chinese Carved Reticulated Jade Box In The Form Of A Goldfish Bowl, QingChinese Blue And White Bowl Kangxi C17thcAntique Chenghua Mark Blue And White Lotus Porcelain Bowl 19th Century ChineseFinest Antique Persian Islamic Arabic Cairoware Kufic Silver Inlaid Bowl + DishLate Ming, Transitional, 17thc, Chinese Tea Bowl With Three Friends Of Winter #2A Large Chinese Porcelain Early 17th Century Ming Marked BowlVeryfine Chinese Sterling Silver Bamboo Etched Butter Dish Bowl Tray Glass LinerLarge Chinese Cloisonne Enamel Famille Rose Lotus Landscape Lidded BowlFine Antique Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose Bowl Flowers Birds 19th/early 20thAntique Indian Kutch Cutch Solid Silver Bowl Decorated Animals C19th 180 Grams C1840 Chinese Daoguang Famille Rose Enamel Immortals Poem Footed BowlA Chinese Green Glaze Shallow BowlWonderful “silver Swan” Solid Silver Russian Kovsh Or Persian Bowl 1175gramsA Chinese Porcelain Transitional Period Ling Long Openworked BowlIslamic / Persian Hallmarked Solid Silver Box / Bowl & Cover 244 GramsLate Ming, Transitional, 17thc, Chinese Tea Bowl With Three Friends Of Winter #1Impressive Quality 18th /19th Antique Old Chinese Blue And White Bowl - Marked NAntique Chinese Nanking Cargo Tea Bowl & Saucer Pair 1752 Blue Pine & PaperworkAntique Chinese Export Famille Rose Porcelain Bowl 18 C Enamel Mandarin PaletteAntique Chinese Porcelain Famille Verte Wucai Tea Bowl With Tiger And FlowersAntique Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Punch Bowl C.1770Fine Chinese Carved Jade Marriage Wedding Bowl Cup, 19c Or EarlierLarge Chinese Cloisonne Dragon Design Bowl - 4 Character Mark - Late 19th / 20thSuperb Perfect Large Chinese Porcelain Bason Bowl 19th C. BirdAntique Chinese Nanking Cargo Tea Bowl & Saucer Pair 1752 Blue Pine & PaperworkChinese Porcelain Famille Verte Wucai Bowl Flowers & Figure 19thc Guangxu SignedMedieval Annamese Hoi An Hoard Shipwreck Blue & White Parrot & Peach Bowl - 1450Fine 19thc Chinese Orange Coral Enamel Bats Footed Serving Bowl Early 20th. Century Chinese Cloisonne Shallow Dragon Bowl On Carved Wood StandAntique Chinese Tea Bowl With Lid Tongzhi Porcelain Mark Enamel MedallionsNice Lot Old Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Wine Warmers Bowl Cup Small BoxAntique Chinese Ding Ware Bowl Song DynastyLarge 19thc Chinese Canton Famille Rose Imperial Figures Serving BowlVintage Chinese Export Carved Spinach Jade Translucent Tea Bowl W Stand Nr LflAn Early Chinese Blue And White Glaze BowlVery Rare Museum Quality Antique 12th Century Persian Khorasan Islamic BowlA Large And Perfect Chinese Porcelain Kangxi Period Floral Bowl Late 1700 Oriental Lowestoft China Trade Export Famille Rose Porcelain Bowl YqzChinese Jian Ware Footed Bowl Giant Islamic Bowl Mamluk Cairoware Ottoman Arabic Calligraphy Pierced OpenworkFine 19thc Chinese Qing Dynasty Canton Famille Rose Imperial Figures Bowl #2Antique Chinese Famille Rose Peony Bowl Tongzhi Reign Mark To Base C1862-74Beautiful Antique Islamic 19 C Damascus Silver Inlaid Brass Bowl Lovely Chinese Blue/white Porcelain Tea Bowl - N0010Chinese Famille Rose Large Bowl Qianlong MarkA Good Quality Chinese Porcelain 19thc Chupu Covered Bowl Imperial FiguresAntique Chinese Famille Rose Yellow Porcelain Bowl Turquoise Enamel Qing DynastyAntique Chinese Celadon Glaze Bowl Molded Turtle Interior