Opium Pipe Bowls (I)

Bowls with Painted or Glazed Decoration

These bowls show various approaches to both ornamental line work and pictorial themes – landscape, still life, and nature. Some are faded almost to invisibility, while others are still vivid and clear.

The Eight Horses of Wang Mu

This is a glazed pipe bowl, painted with figures outlined in light relief. The eight horses are a reference to the Eight Horses of Wang Mu, a popular mythological theme in the early Qing era. This is a rare, but not unique specimen – another slight variation on the same theme and coloration can be seen in the Wolf K. book. Functionally, the spherical design is similar to bowls from early in the 19th century, before flat-topped bowls became widespread.

Red Clay Bowls

A good plain red clay bowl could have been prized by a smoker above other more ornate choices for its smoking qualities, but there is a certain aesthetic elegance to the unadorned simplicity of some of these. Some interesting details in this set include a bowl that has been sealed at the top and drilled into on the side (though the raised portion of the clay around the drilled hole suggests that perhaps this bowl was designed to be used either way) and a bowl with a fixed ring of spongy, tacky material around its base, which would have provided a very convenient alternative to the usual ghee-rag for sealing the bowl airtight with the pipe saddle.