Ru Kiln Ware
The ware produced at the Ru Kiln is some of the most highly prized of all Chinese stoneware. Until 1986, when the original kiln site was discovered, only 60 intact pieces were known to exist. At the site, archaeologist discovered 22 more intact pieces along with many fragments and broken piece.
The Ru Kiln was established in 1107 AD, during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) to produce items only for imperial use. The kiln was in production during the reigns of Emperors Huizong (1100-1126) and Qinzong (1126-1127), until 1127 when production was halted with the defeat of the Northern Song Dynasty by the Jin Dynasty. Almost immediately the Ru Kiln Ware became incredibly valuable. The kiln was located in Henan Province’s Ruzhou County, which is where the kiln got its name.
The pieces are famed for their thick cloudy, crackled glaze which was sapphire blue or light green in color. Unlike other stoneware, the pieces produced at the Ru Kiln were completely coated with glaze. When loaded into the kiln they were placed on spikes to keep them from sticking to the kiln’s shelves. The glaze has small amounts of iron which oxidizes when firing and turn greenish. The glazes range in color from nearly white to a deep robin’s egg blue. The crackles in the glaze are created when the glaze cools and shrinks faster than the body of the piece causing it to stretch and split. During the Song Dynasty, it was the first time that the crackles were considered a desirable trait, rather than a defect. The Ru Kiln pieces originally had thick bodies with thin glazes applied, but as time went on, the bodies became thinner and the glazes thicker until the glazes were actually thicker than the bodies. The glaze would tend to drip, causing it to be thinner at the top and the clay would show through. The kiln made such items as bowls, plates, bottles, and basins. Ru Kiln Ware was very difficult and complicated to produce and prone to failure, so generally only smaller pieces were produced to ensure a higher success rate was achieved. Most pieces were only 10 to16cm in size and no piece to date has been found larger than 30cm.
When the discovery of the Ru Kiln was announced in 1987, it was quickly understood that it was the most important archaeological even in modern Chinese ceramics history. Excavations continued for many years and 15 kiln furnaces, kiln equipment, and two workshops were uncovered. It was also discovered that some Ru Kiln Ware was pea green in color and incised and had molded designs. These were not known to exist before the discovery of the kiln.