China, Gansu province, Yangshao culture
Neolithic period, Banshan phase (c. 2600–2300 B.C.)
c. 2500 B.C.
Low-fired earthenware painted with iron oxide and manganese pigments
H. 14 in. (35.6 cm); Diam. 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm)
Currently On View
Large storage jars, painted with a free hand in imaginative geometric designs, are commonly found in Neolithic tombs in Gansu province, located in west China. Hand-coiled, with sides pared thin and burnished on a slow-turning wheel before painting, they are noted for their generous forms and great vitality of design. Jars like this one, probably used to hold food or liquids buried with the dead, are among the earliest Chinese artifacts known. They predate the development of bronze technique and are a testament to a remarkable skill in firing and decorating ceramics at a very early date. The bold, abstract treatment of the decoration and swelling form displays the imagination and vivacity of the Chinese potter’s art, qualities that make these vessels so appealing.