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Meiping Bottle with Plum Branch Decor, 13th century, Jin-Yuan dynasty. Cizhou ware. Stoneware with decoration reserved in the biscuit against a dark-brown glaze, 8-3/8 x 5 x 5 in. (21.3 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm). Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton 2001.137.1. Minneapolis Institute of Arts © 2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Probably used for storing wine, vinegar, soy sauce and other liquids during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1280-1368) dynasties, meiping bottles such as this came to be favored in later periods as vases for cut branches of flowering plum as the term, meiping (« plum bottle » or « plum vase ») implies. In fact, the term mei-ping does not appear in pre-Qing (1644-1912) texts.

This elegant example of Cizhou stencil decoration displays a cut branch of flowering plum on each side of the bottle. The details of the pistils were brushed in with brown slip on the biscuit reserve and, as was typical in this technique, the resist portions of the design were coated with a thin application of clear glaze for protection.