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Brush washer in the shape of a plum blossom, guan ware, China, Southern Song (1127 – 1279), Zhejiang Province, stoneware with crackled glaze, 2.7 x 10.8 cm. Gift of Mr J.H. Myrtle 1998. 60.1998. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (C) Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 ‘Guan’ means ‘official’ and imperial Guan wares were made for the newly established Southern Song court after the style of wares made previously for the northern court at Kaifeng. Produced at the Guan kilns sited in present-day Zhejiang province, Guan wares, and Guan-type wares made at Longquan kilns, are among the most sumptuous of Song wares. Typically they are thin and dark bodied, but thickly covered with many layers of lustrous greyish-green glaze with a mesh of crackle which has been enhanced by staining.

This piece exemplifies Southern Song taste and would have been among the desk accoutrements of a late Song literati aspiring to pursue a reclusive life of self-cultivation that focused on reading, poetry, painting and calligraphy.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.107.