Porcelain Urn

Western Xia Dynasty, 1032 - 1227 AD
Gansu Provincial Museum

The Western Xia does not usually appear in the official lists of Chinese dynasties. It was a state, established by the Tangut tribes, that ruled the provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi (where Xi'an – Tang Chang'an – is located), and tiny Ningxia, during the Song period. The object illustrated here is large and impressive, but imperfect; for example, the outlined neck of the vessel cuts into its incised decoration at the upper left, and there is a mismatch at the upper right.

Black porcelain, as its name implies, was made from a dark paste that had to be fired at high temperatures, with careful control of the glaze. A piece like this might have been produced in Yaozhou (on a bad day) or other kilns in Shaanxi.