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    

Perfect 26cm Chinese 18th C Qianlong Famille Rose Mandarin Porcelain Punch BowlVery Large 40cm Chinese 19th C Famille Rose Medallion Wash Basin Punch Bowl VaseRare Important Chinese Tongzhi Famille Rose Porcelain Bowl W/ Bats & ButterfliesGenuine Antique 6 Character Mark Chinese Yellow Ground Sacred Dragon Bowl NrStunning Vintage Chinese Porcelain Tea BowlPretty 17cm Chinese 18th C Qianlong Famille Rose Mandarin Porcelain Bowl VaseAntique Large Chinese Qing Period Hand Paint Famille Rose Porcelain Tray/bowlAntique Chinese Oriental Celadon Bowl Incised Decoration Ming6 Pieces Good Antique Chinese Porcelain Teaware, Teacups, Bowl, Box, Reign MarksAntique Chinese Celadon Porcelain Foliated Bowl Ming DynastyNice Chinese 18th C Qianlong Blue And White Armorial Porcelain Tea Bowl Cup VaseNice Old Japanese Plique A Jour Cloisonné Bowl Floral Decoration Showa PeriodC1900 Solid Silver Anglo Indian Raj Cobra Snake Head Bowl Dish Antique 191g NrPp7: Japanese Tea Bowl, Minoo Ware By Famous Potter, Mizan Matsuda, Raku StyleFine Signed Antique Chinese Famille Rose Bowl Dish 6 Character Mark MagnoliaRare Important Chinese Tongzhi Famille Rose Lotus Bowl Deorated With Royal SceneLovely Antique Chinese Polished Bronze Censer Bowl Xaunde MarkAntique Chinese Purple & Blue Glazed Fruits Bowl KangxiAntique Chinese Bird & Insect Blue & White Bowl Wanli Period17-18th C Chinese Chenghua Mark Kangxi Famille Verte Bowl 14.5cm Dia.Superb Quality Repousse Chased Persian Islamic Indian Kashmir Silver BowlPa2: Japanese Tea Bowl, Hagi Ware, Artistic Glazes By Famous Seigan YamaneLate 19c Chinese Famille Rose Turquoise Glaze Porcelain 3 Dragon Bowl MarkedNice Antique Chinese Enamel Decorated Yixing Tea Bowl Or Cup ZishaGood Large 19th C Chinese Porcelain Sang De Boeuf Flambe Monochrome Censer BowlAntique 18th Century Chinese Porcelain Oriental Scenes Tea Bowl - Nice!Pd9: Antique Japanese Hand-shaped Pottery Tea Bowl, Shigaraki Ware, 19cPn3: Japanese Tea Bowl, Raku Ware By Famous Keizan Ono, Chojiro Raku StylePo7: Antique Japanese Hand-painted Tea Bowl, Satsuma Ware By Gyozan Okada, 19cChinese Blue & White Prunus Blossom Bowl - 18th/19th CenturyPa6: Japanese Tea Bowl, Hagi Ware By Famous Seigan Yamane, 3 Color GlazesAntique Chinese Ornately Carved Hardwood Vase~bowl~figurine StandAntique Chinese Guan Type Guanyao Monochrome Brush Washer Bowl Qing Dynasty - NrGood Antique 18th Century Chinese Porcelain Hand Painted Footed Bowl.Stunning Quality Antique Islamic Persian Indian Silver BowlChinese Porcelain Bowl Probably Xianfeng Mark And Period17th C Shunzhi-kangxi Lions And Lotus Conical Blue & White Bowl Jiajing MarkPa5: Japanese Hagi Ware Tea Bowl With Notched Foot By Seigan Yamane, Oni-hagiRare Chinese Republic Period Eggshell Porcelain Bowl Ladies With Calligraphy ExcVery Old Persian Islamic Brass Bowl Decorated In Silver Arabic Calligraphy -rareAntique Chinese Bronze Censer BowlAntique Chinese Treacle Glazed Foliate BowlBurmese Silver Thabeik Bowl With Heavy Relief Circa 19th Century BeautifulPp1: Vintage Japanese Tea Bowl, Inuyama Ware By Famous Hisaichi Osawa, GoldAntique Chinese Porcelain Bowl Dragon /sea Monster Chenghua Mark Gc29947# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Chanwan (tea Bowl) / Set Of 2 / Kyo Ware / KinsaiFine Quality Chinese Republic Millefleurs Bowl With Qianlong Mark To Base C190029966# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Chawan (tea Bowl) / Kyo Ware / Kinsai Iroe / Carr H839: Korean Joseon-dynasty Style Pottery Small Bowl Of Keiryuzan StyleOld "kamana" Terracotta Sago Bowl From The Sawos People In Perfect ConditionPo8: Vintage Japanese Hand-shaped Pottery Tea Bowl, Seto Ware, Blue Ocean Glaze29986# Japanese Ceramics / Bowl Set / Set Of 5 / Arita Ware / Kinsai Iroe / FlorPa1: Japanese Tea Bowl, Hagi Ware By Famous Potter, Seigan Yamane, Blue GlazePe8: Japanese Tea Bowl Of Raku Ware By Famous Potter, Toin Murata, Kuro RakuPs4: Vintage Japanese Pottery Tea Bowl, Banko Ware, Rabbit29961# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Shino Chanwan (tea Bowl) / Mino Ware / Higeru Yam29953# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Akaraku Chawan (tea Bowl) / Raku Ware / Shoraku SPf3: Vintage Japanese Porcelain Tea Bowl, Kyo Ware With Wooden Box, Gold30229# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Nezumishino Chawan (tea Bowl) / Mino Ware / Shuza29975# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Chawan (tea Bowl) / Kyo Ware / Iroe / Nadeshiko /