Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)
This vase, probably made for show or to hold a branch or a flower, is an unusually large example of the cong shape, and its color is equally impressive. The soft, limpid, bluish green glaze is a classic example of what is sometimes called celadon. The shade resembles that of the most precious jade while the cong name and shape refer to a type of ceremonial object made thousands of years earlier-a jade tube with a circular center and rectangular sides. Along the sides of the ancient congs stylized faces were stacked as modules, one atop another. This vase's ceramic allusion to the earlier jades abstracts the older motif into a simplified, stately pattern.
The Southern Song dynasty is so named because the court had moved south to escape invaders from the north. The proximity of the new capital to the southern kilns of Longquan, where this vase was made, no doubt spurred the potters to new heights in perfecting both color and shape. The reference to the ancient cong is a clear expression of the continuity of culture in difficult times, a material and aesthetic connection no doubt providing comfort to the besieged rulers of the Southern Song.
Newly glazed in auspicious jadelike colors . . . like thin ice holding green clouds. . . . -Poet Xu Yin, about 900