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Tea bowl with design of mountain retreat

Tea bowl
Artist: Ogata Ihachi (Kyoto Kenzan II) (active 1720-1760)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, mid 18th century
Stoneware with white slip, iron and cobalt pigments under clear glaze; gold lacquer repairs
H x W: 7.3 x 10 cm (2 7/8 x 3 15/16 in)
Japan, Kyoto prefecture, Kyoto
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
Gold lacquer repair.
Clay: hard, fine. Stoneware.
Glaze: cream, finely crackled.
Decoration: white slip with iron and impure cobalt under glaze. Pavilion and landscape.

"Kenzan Sei Sho," (inscribed by Kenzan) with "ji"-style cipher.

The poem reads: "In tranquility, the universe is great." The conflation of a vast entity with a small bounded space is a common theme in Zen poetry, and ultimately derives from the early and influential Daoist test Zhuangzi (ca. 3d century B.C.E.) A ceramic prototype with this expression can be seen in kosometsuke, the late-Ming cobalt-decorated porcelains imported into Japan in the early-Edo period. Here, since half the poem is on the outside and half on the inside, the full measure of the verse—and its relation to the enclosed space of the vessel, which "becomes" the universe in metaphor—is revealed either through drinking or otherwise handling the bowl. Serious poetic appreciation thus merges into mischievous "parlor" humor, with parallels in painted sake cups that reveal comical faces or other figures as they are tipped.

To 1896
Yamanaka & Company, New York to 1896 [1]

From 1896 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1896 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 481, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Former owner
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel
Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, lacquer repair, landscape, mountain, pavilion, tea
Collection(s) Area
Japanese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.