Tenmokujawan (Tenmoku tea bowl) (天目茶碗)

Tenmokujawan means a pottery tea bowl that is fired by using glaze called Tenmoku glaze.


Though the history of ceramics fired by using tetsuyu (glaze containing iron) in China dates back to the ages of Zhou, full-fledged production is believed to have started in the ages of Eastern Jin at Dequing kiln, which was located in current Zhejian Province. The production became active during the ages of Sung (dynasty). As the ages of Sung corresponded to the Kamakura period in Japan when Zen sect was prosperous, Zen monks who went to Tenmokuzan (Zhejian Province) in Zhejian Province, which was the center of Chinese Zen sect, brought back the products to Japan together with the practice of drinking tea. Because of the above history, tea bowls produced by using tetsuyu were called 'Tenmoku,' and among them, those with a supponguchi (a mouth in the shape of soft-shell turtle) were specifically called 'Tenmokujawan,' being valued by tea ceremony lovers because of their excellent ability to keep tea warm and used at important tea ceremonies such as Daisu-temae and Kijin-date.

Glaze (black glaze containing iron) used to fire Tenmoku makes products black due to the action of iron contained in it. Therefore, color of products varies depending on the contained amount of iron, and Tenmoku glaze which contains less iron is called "ameyu" while Tenmoku glaze which contains more iron is called "kakiyu."

Varieties of Tenmokujawan

Representative Tenmokujawan are products called Kensan, which were produced at Ken kiln located in Jianou City (former Jianou Prefecture), Fujian Province, and those called Taihisan/Bessan, which were produced at Kisshu kiln located in Jian Prefecture, Jiangxi Province. Yohen Tenmoku,' 'Yuteki Tenmoku,' 'Haikatsugi Tenmoku' and 'Nogi Tenmoku' derived from the former and 'Konoha Tenmoku' derived from the latter. Currently, only four (or three) products of 'Yohen Tenmoku,' which are regarded as the finest ones, are being possessed by Ryuko-in Temple (Kita Ward, Kyoto City), Seikado Bunko Art Museum, Fujita Museum of Art and MIHO MUSEUM respectively. The former three were designated as national treasure and the one possessed by MIHO MUSEUM was designated as important cultural asset.

Other than the above, 'Kanan Tenmoku' of North China, 'Korai Tenmoku' of Korea and 'Kikuka Tenmoku' (Seto-yaki [Seto ware]) of Japan are well-known.
Among the products of Mino-yaki (Mino ware), there are tea bowls produced by using white glaze called 'Shiro Tenmoku.'

[Original Japanese]