Powdered tea container with design of phoenix and clouds

Artist: Kensai (1793-1861)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, mid-19th century
Brown clay; white slip, enamels, and iron pigment under transparent lead glaze.
H x Diam: 8.1 × 6.2 cm (3 3/16 × 2 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel

Tea caddy (chaire)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, tea

To 1901
Siegfried Bing (1838-1905), Paris to 1901 [1]

From 1901 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Siegfried Bing, Paris in 1901

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 954, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Siegfried Bing (C.L. Freer source) 1838-1905
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Shape, size, and the type of cover suggest the use of this vessel as a tea container (chaki). This is basically a relaxed version of the hieratically conceived tea caddy (chaire), which is employed in more formal tea service. The phoenix (ho-o) is traditionally seen as an emblem of female rule, ruler of the birds, harbinger of peace, prosperity, and sage rule, and sign of the southern quadrant of heaven. In Chinese popular culture the phoenix was depicted on wedding gifts and trousseaux, for the bride was an "empress for a day." This auspicious grammar came to be embodied in Japanese themes as well.

Published References
  • Richard L. Wilson. The Potter's Brush: The Kenzan Style in Japanese Ceramics. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 30, p. 105.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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