Sue ware jar

Historical period(s)
Kofun (Tumulus) period, ca. 550-600
Stoneware clay with natural ash glaze
Sue ware
H x W x D: 52.7 x 46.4 x 46.4 cm (20 3/4 x 18 1/4 x 18 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel


Japan, Kofun (Tumulus) Period (250 - 552 CE), stoneware, Sue ware, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

As the textured surface indicates, this jar was finished with the potter's tools called paddle and anvil. In addition, the jar's gray surface is the result of the firing procedure. A gray color resulted from the potter's attempt to ensure that the vessel would be nonporous for storing liquids. By restricting oxygen during the last stage of the firing, the potter created a smoky atmosphere that deposited carbon on the pot's surface, sealing the pores and causing the minerals in the clay to darken.

The  jar was fired to a temperature high enough to melt the wood ash that landed on its surface, creating a natural "glaze." Techniques for firing to a high temperature, using a kiln, were introduced to Japan from the Korean peninsula in the early fifth century. Before this innovation, Japanese potters made only low-temperature, porous earthenware. Nonporous pottery made with the new technology, known as sue ware, was the elite ceramic ware of the day and was buried among the grave offerings placed in tombs of nobility. The sue technology formed the basis for the later production of stoneware jars.

Published References
  • Martin P. Amt, Rob Barnard. In Praise of Feet. vol. 18, no. 2 Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, June 1990. p. 24 and cover.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 63, p. 85.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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