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    

Superb Chinese 19th C Qianlong Style Famille Rose Scholars Bowl SetFine 17th C Chinese Blue & White Porcelain Bowl - Khangxi Mark & Period - KhangFine Antique Chinese Export Sterling Solid Silver Bowl Luen Wo Shanghai QingV-large Antique 19th C Chinese Porcelain Famille Verte Fish Bowl Vase Jardinere Large Antique Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Duck Lotus Dish Plate Bowl 18th CChinese Tong Zhi Famille Rose Porcelain Bowl And Cover.Very Large 48cm Chinese 19th C Famille Rose Medallion Wash Basin Punch Bowl VaseMarked 19 Th Century Chinese Famille Rose Bowl Tongzhi Mark And Period V-large Antique Chinese Porcelain Blue And White Prunes Punch Bowl 19th CAntique Chinese Blackware Jizhou Leaf Bowl Bowl Antique Tibetan 18th Century Buddhist Dream Mirror Frame & Skull Bowl ProvenanceGood 18thc Chinese Porcelain Marked Tea Bowl With Famille Verte Floral DecorAntique Chinese Families Rose Bowl 18th Century Yongzheng PeriodAntique 19thc Japanese Meiji (1868-1912) Arita Imari Porcelain Scalloped BowlVtg Antique Chinese Export Famille Insects Rose Gammadion Porcelain Bowl Rare Small Early Chinese Han Western Jin Carved Yue Type Celadon Glazed Bowl Cup18thc Matched Chinese Porcelain Tea Bowl & Saucer - Rabbit & Sq.marksAntique Chinese Porcelain Dragon Bowl. Marked.18thc Chinese Porcelain Yongzheng Tea Bowl & Saucer With Central Figure DecorGood 18thc Chinese Porcelain "en Grisalle" European Design Tea Bowl & Saucer18thc Chinese Porcelain Yongzheng Tea Bowl & Saucer - Unusual Geometric Decor79g Antique Anglo Indian Solid Silver Bowl - Embossed With Animals & Wildlife (1Antique Chinese Large Junyao Sang De Boeuf Bowl C1900, Luen Wo, Fine Antique Chinese Silver Pierced And Engraved Tazza Dish BowlYk1 Antique Japanese Tea Bowl With Kintsugi Repair By Otagaki Rengetsu, 19cGood 18thc Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose Tea Bowl & SaucerDelightful 18th C Chinese Qianlong Famille Rose Two Sheep Mandarin Tea Cup BowlPerfect 18th C Chinese Qianlong Blue And White Pagoda Lakeside Tea Bowl Cup VaseFine 18thc Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose Tea Bowl With Blue Bird & Gilt DecorGood Antique Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose Ormulo Mounted Hand Painted BowlAntique Chinese Porcelain - Oriental Flower Decorated Tea Bowl & SaucerA Superb Large Chinese Porcelain Turquoise Bowl79g Antique Anglo Indian Solid Silver Bowl - Embossed With Animals & Wildlife (2Antique Chinese Blue Washing Bowl Antique Beautifully Carved Small Wooden Hardwood Vase Bowl Stand Plinth 9cmNice Old Signed Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Punch Bowl RepublicAntique Asian Blue Cloisonne Footed Jardiniere Bowl Flowers Bird Butterfly Nice!Nice Antique Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Lg Bowl Or BasinAntique Carved Small Wooden Hardwood Vase Bowl Stand Plinth Japanese 26.5cm B836: Korean Joseon-dynasty Style Porcelain Tea Bowl Of Traditional KeiryuzanYo8: Vintage Japanese Tea Ceremony Handy Set With Tea Bowl, Raku Ware, NodateYh5: Japanese Tea Bowl, Kyo Ware By Famous Potter, Kyosen Heian, Pine TreeYl6 Japanese Tea Bowl, Seto Ware By Famous Potter, Eichi Kato, Gold & Dark Brown B532: Korean Joseon Dynasty Style Pottery Tea Bowl Of Traditional Kobiki GlazeC18th Chinese Ca Mau Shipwreck Cargo Blue And White Tea Bowl Internal Lake SceneA Fine Antique Chinese Cloisonne Enamel Bowl 19thcAntique Japanese Miniature Porcelain Signed Bowl With Tortoise - Signed58327# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Irabo Chawan (tea Bowl) / Artist's Worl58308# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Chawan (tea Bowl) / Fire Cord Decoration / Artist58329# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Chawan (tea Bowl) / Shigaraki Ware / Artist's WorImportant 12thc Chinese Song Dynasty Dingyao White Carved Dragon Dish BowlUnusual Chinese Ru Glaze Scholars Brush Washer Bowl W Inscription Song DynastyHighly Important Chinese Song Dynasty Ru Guan Crackle Glaze Lotus Bowl J.t TaoRare & Superb 12thc Chinese Song Dynasty Qingbai Glaze Carvd Boy Bowl Sothebys 1Rare 12thc Chinese Song Dynasty Junyao Blue Flambe Glazed Tea Bowl Antique StandVery Fine 12thc Chinese Song Dynasty Qingbai Crackle Glaze Dish Bowl Sotheby’s 2Extremely Rare C1700 Chinese Kangxi Langyao Red Flambe Glaze Large Bowl Vermeer12thc Chinese Song Dynasty Golden Longquan Guan Crackle Glazed Brush Washer BowlVery Fine Signed Chinese Daoguang Imperial Yellow Glaze Porcelain Dragon BowlVery Rare C1800 Signed Chinese Imperial Jiaqing Teadust Stem Bowl Cup Vermeer