Perhaps the most popular of all Song-era ceramics were the wares colored with green-blue-gray glazes. Yaozhou wares, such as the large bowl seen here, were a widely distributed green-glazed ceramic, generally believed to have been made for popular consumption rather than for the court. Thirteenth-century Chinese records indicate that Yaozhou wares were considered crude and were used by restaurants because of their durability. Yaozhou wares are named after the former name of the Tongchuan region of Shaanxi Province, where the majority and the best of these pieces were manufactured. Noted for their deeply carved designs, Yaozhou wares have light gray bodies and thick, olive-green glazes. The designs and shapes of Yaozhou wares are closely related to those of Ding wares; in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, the technical innovations made at the Ding kilns were also used in the production of Yaozhou wares. These include the use of stepped saggars for firing vessels, the upside-down (fushao) firing technique, and the use of ceramic molds to impress designs on the pieces. The introduction of reusable molds also facilitated mass production.
The Yaozhou kilns continued production during the Jin dynasty (1115-1234) in northern China. (The Jin had forced the Song rulers to flee south, where they established the Southern Song court [1126-1279].) This bowl has a date corresponding with the year 1162 inscribed in black ink on an unglazed ring in the bottom, providing a linchpin for the style of Jin-period Yaozhou wares. Lotus flowers floating on waves decorate the interior, while more stylized floral motifs are incised on the exterior. The lotus flowers were carved and the wave patterns combed. Such decoration is more difficult and time-consuming than decorating only the interior or the exterior of a ceramic, and suggests that the piece was made by special order. In this regard, it is interesting that one reading of the inscription suggests that the last character, which is very difficult to make out, may be an owner's or a potter's name.
Several reasons have been suggested for the popularity of green-glazed wares in Chinese ceramic history: green glazes derived from iron oxides are relatively easy to produce and were among the first glazes created in China. The interest in green glaze has also been linked to the Chinese preference for jade.