Chicken-Head Ewer, 4th century, Eastern Jin (317-420). Yue ware. Stoneware with dark brown glaze, 12-3/8 x 9-7/8 x 9-7/8 in. (31.4 x 25.1 x 25.1 cm).Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton 2001.7.1. Minneapolis Institute of Arts © 2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Curious « chicken-head » spouts appear on a relatively large group of 4th century celadon and brown glazed wares produced at the yueh kilns in South China. The sculptural spouts had no symbolic importance and likely evolved from late Zhou dynasty bronze ewers.
This type of ewer with a robust globular body represents the style of Eastern Jin (317-420). With time, the basic form evolved into a taller, slender bodied vessel that was more often glazed in celadon. Likewise, the humble chicken head spout was transformed into more exotic birds including the pheasant and phoenix. Eventually, the bird heads were given more prominence, being raised from the shoulder of the vessel to terminate the elongated necks of the ewer or vase.