Maebyōng vessel

Maebyōng vessel
Korea, Koryo dynasty
918 - 1392
Ceramic vessel
Dark stoneware with ash glaze
h. 35.5 cm.
Bequest of John B. Elliott, Class of 1951


Lobed stoneware pot with a wide flared base and a flat bottom that curves up to a narrow waist and wide bulbous shoulders, topped by a small basin-shaped neck and mouth that is slightly askew. Finger impressed lines are scored between the lobes, and a thing ring is scored slightly above the base. The slim waist, exaggerated curves, and verticality of vessel may indicate that it is from the late Koryŏ, closer to some Chosŏn examples. Because some Chinese and some early Korean examples of this vessel-type have cup-shaped lids, it may be that this vessel originally had a cover.

The term maebyŏng is derived from the Chinese word meiping (prunus vase). The maebyŏng vessel has a small mouth, broad swelling shoulder, and a constricted waist. The shape is believed to have originated in China, and to have been popular during the Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392) in Korea. In terms of the Chinese precedents, in The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976), Margaret Medley refers to the meiping as a “special form” unique to northern China Cizhou stoneware, manufactured from the Tang dynasty through the 14th century. In The British Museum Book of Chinese Art (1992), Jessica Rawson expresses a similar opinion.