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Porcelain bowl sherd - The Stein Collection

The Stein Collection

  • Object:

    Porcelain bowl sherd

  • Place of origin:

    Gansu (discovered)
    Jingdezhen (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Porcelain, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue and iron-red

  • Credit Line:

    Stein Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 6, shelf 3

This is a rim sherd from a 1600s' porcelain bowl with unrecognisable underglaze cobalt blue and iron-red decoration. This sherd along with many other pottery sherds was found at the site of Suoyangcheng. Souyangcheng lies ca. 50 km east of Dunhuang, Gansu Province. It is the site of a military town featuring a castle. It was probably first settled during the Tang dynasty (618-907).

The Victoria and Albert Museum has more than 70 ceramic fragments and fragments of Buddhist sculptures, as well as around 600 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) during his second expedition (1906-8) into Chinese Central Asia, where he once again visited and excavated sites on the southern Silk Road, before moving eastwards to Dunhuang. At Dunhuang, he studied and excavated the Han-dynasty watchtowers to the north of the town, as well as the Mogao cave temples to the southeast, where he acquired material from the Library Cave. From there he moved on to the northern Silk Road, stopping briefly at Turfan sites but not carrying out any excavations. He made a perilous north-south crossing of the Taklamakan desert in order to hasten to Khotan where he excavated more ancient sites, before finishing off his expedition with surveying in the Kunlun Mountains.

Physical description

Rim sherd from a porcelain bowl with unrecognisable underglaze cobalt blue and iron-red decoration.

Place of Origin

Gansu (discovered)
Jingdezhen (made)


17th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Porcelain, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue and iron-red


Width: 2.2 cm maximum

Object history note

Found at or near the site of Suoyangcheng (So-yang-cheng).

Historical context note

Suoyangcheng lies east of Dunhuang on the southern Silk Road. Here Stein found the remains of a town enclosed in massive walls of stamped clay. Outside the city walls were traces of a canal, clay towers and pottery shards. Stein was particularly impressed by a large stupa, which he tentatively dated to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Nearby were smaller stupas filled with hundreds of miniature clay stupas made from moulds. Fragments of green-glazed pottery, depicting winged dragons, appeared to have come from the roof of a temple, long gone. Within the city walls were mounds of ancient dwellings and refuse heaps. The latter contained fragments of porcelain and glazed stoneware, along with many bronze and copper coins. Most of the coins and pottery dated to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and Sung Dynasty, indicating continuous occupation during this period. The presence of porcelain pieces from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) suggested that the site had served as a temporary shelter centuries later. The V&A holds, on loan, shards of blue and white porcelain from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) and Qing Dynasty, celadon-glazed stoneware dating from the 11th to the twelfth century, and fragments of green-glazed roof tile dating from the second to the ninth century.

Descriptive line

Sherd of a porcelain bowl, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue and iron-red, 17th century, China.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Stein, Marc Aurel. Serindia: detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921, vol. 3, p.1107

Production Note

from Suoyangcheng








East Asia Collection

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