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]

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    

Huge Estate Lot Chinese Carved Wood Vase Bowl Figure Censer Display Stands 1Huge Estate Lot Chinese Carved Wood Vase Bowl Figure Censer Display Stands 2Lot Chinese Famille Rose Candlestick Enamel Bowl Guangxu Lotus Dish Cinnabar BoxAntique 19th Century Chinese Bronze Tripod Censer BowlEstate Lot Chinese Kangxi Qianlong Daoguang Vase Plate Eggshell Vases Bowl BoxAn Antique Chinese Blue And White Bowl Kangxi Mark And Of The Period (1662-1722)Estate Lot Chinese Imperial Horse Lidded Boxes Jade Bowl Cup Brush Rest DuckAntique Chinese Hare's Fur Bowl Song DynastyAn Antique Chinese Blue And White Bowl, Kangxi 1662-1722C1780 Elinor Gordon Oriental Lowestoft Chinese Export Armorial Spoon Tray BowlUnusual Antique Chinese Cloisone Bowl With Goldfish - Early 20thc19th Antique Old Chinese/japanese Dragon BowlAntique Chinese Song / Yuan Greenware Longquan Type Foliated Celadon BowlLarge Antique Chinese Ogee Form Flower & Bird Porcelain Bowl - Kangxi PeriodChinese Song Or Liao Celadon Glazed Lotus Bowl19th Antique Old Chinese Famille Rose Bowl --- MarkedFine Antique Chinese Famille Jaune Verte Warrior Figures Bowl - 18/19th Century10te Japanese Tea Ceremony Set W/ Kiri Wood Box Tea Bowl Chawan Chasen ChashakuAntique Ornate Buddhist Singing Chakra Bowl Himalyan Tibet Nepal MeditationRare Antique Japanese Edo - Meiji Imari Scalloped Bowl Japan 19th CenturyRare Large Chinese Antique Famille Rose Qing Dynasty Qianlong Tea Bowl Cup #10Antique 19thc Burmese Hand Crafted Solid Silver Bowl.Antique 18thc Chinese Qianlong Famille Rose Porcelain BowlC1725 Late Kangxi Early Yongzheng Ca Mau Shipwreck Deer Pattern Tea Bowl/saucerEstate Lot Chinese Famille Rose Turquoise Cloisonne Enamel Lidded Jar Vase BowlAn Antique Chinese Porcelain Blue And White Bowl 17th CenturyFine Chinese Doucai Bowl Yongzheng Mark Two Tongzhi 1862-1874 Marked + 18c Famille Rose Dishes & Bowl, Chinese AntiquesAntique Chinese Gilt White Glazed Porcelain Bowl, Daoguang Mark, 19th C.Antique Japanese Imari Meiji Period Arita Fuki Choshun Mark Large Dragon Bowl Superb Antique 17thc Chinese Qing Kangxi Blue & White Porcelain Saucer Dish BowlAntique Chinese Export Floral Scenic Painted Enamel CloisonnEstate Lot Japanese Imari Nabeshima Enamel Bowl Plates Satsuma Gold Scenic VaseRare Antique Japanese Imari Black Ship Bowl Dutchmen Meiji Period Japan ļRare Old Kutch Indian / Se Asian Silver Bowl W/ Relief Of Elephants Lions +moreEstate Lot 18/19thc Chinese Qianlong Famille Rose Teapot Bowl Vase Cup DishChinese Qianlong C18th Antique Famille Rose Mandarin Bowl & Saucer DishFine Chinese Antique Export Silver Dragon Bowl Late 19th Century Usa An Antique Chinese Blue And White Bowl 18th CenturyAntique Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Bowl, Jiaqing Mark & PeriodAn Antique Chinese Blue And White Bowl, Kangxi 1662-1722Large Chinese Imari 18thc Kangxi Antique Bowl - Kangxi Mark On BaseAntique 18thc Chinese Qianlong Famille Rose Mandarin Porcelain Tea Bowl & CupChinese 19 Century Export Famille Rose Porcelain Fish Bowl (planter)Chinese Export Silver Bowl Salt & Spoon Sets (2) Dragon17thc Chinese Antique Blue&white Tea Bowl Cup Ming Dynasty Wanli (c1563-1620) #3Antique Hand Painted Chinese Tea Bowl & Saucer Figural 4 Character Mark KangxiJapanese Sterling Silver Salt Bowl Caster Temple MiniatureVery Fine Antique Chinese 18thc Qing Yongzheng Blue & White Export Tea Cup BowlAn Antique Chinese Blue And White Bowl, Kangxi Period 1662-172219th C.japanese Imari Covered Bowl With ShipsYb3: Japanese Tea Bowl Of Hagi Ware By Famous, Seigan Yamane, Drift Ice GlazeImpressive Qianlong1736-1796 Blue And White Dish & Tea Bowl, Chinese AntiquesJapanese Hanging Scroll "tea Bowl For Tea Ceremony" @u314Superb Quality! Qianlong1736-1795 Famille Rose Tea Bowl, Chinese AntiquesFabulous Quality 19th Century Chinese Carved Coconut BowlAntique 18th C Chinese Export Famille Rose Porcelain Bowl Dish Qing QianlongLarge Chinese Wucai Bowl 'eight Immortal' (low Reserve Price)Large 11.75" 19thc Chinese Porcelain Blue & White Phoenix's Fish Bowl JardinereYn9: Japanese Tea Bowl, Shino Ware By 1st Class Potter, Takeharu Kobayashi