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Earth and Fire – Unglazed Pots

Earth and Fire – Unglazed Pots

Austere, plain, tasteful, smooth, discreet, modest, unobtrusive, these are words this article could start and at the same time end with.  Those are words that describe something which really can't be understood from words, but should be felt or experienced.

In Japan, this kind of feeling is called „SHIBUI“ (austere, plain, tasteful) „SHIBUMI“ (refined taste) „SHIBUSA“ (meaning something calm, unobtrusive, made with total certainty, not flashy, blatant or shrill). The inherent beauty of an object determines the depth or flatness of its charisma.

In our culture these terms are comparable with „aesthetics“. Aesthetics is not limited to objects but is also applied to other arts like music, literature or gardens etc.

Japanese Haikus for example are of high aesthetic value.

„The nightingale, when residing in the pine tree, is the pine's voice“ (Issa) or „What lies in front of our eyes looks like bygone long ago, in the drizzling rain“ (Buson).

Even situations of life and  ritualistic activities can have aesthetics and SHIBUI. A good example is the tea ceremony in Japan.

The secret power that lies in the words aesthetics or Shibui is not so much understood by the mind, meaning rational, but must be experienced literally with body and soul.

It is the same with the pots shown below, they do not really match any description. They should be experienced in reality with all senses, the best photographs can not be a substitute for this.

You must feel pots like these yourself, see them with your soul. They are the most noble in the family of bonsai pots. These Chinese pots, some even with a chop, are from „Yixing“, China

The first pot is a very old one (which we can also tell from the oversized drainage holes, about 7 cm in diameter). The pot measures 37 cm x 24 cm x 15 cm. If you want to learn more about pots like these, read John Naka No. 4 in Background Knowledge.

This beautiful pot with the measurements 32 cm x 20 cm x 7,5 cm bears a chop with old characters and it means made by „Shou You Kou“.

This pot has a very unusual shape. We can assume that it was used for a raft-style bonsai. On the bottom there is a potter's signature which was cut in angular characters. It says: KATSU (last name) TOKU WA (first name) ZOU (made). This pot is from Japan.


This pot, like all other ones shown in this article, fulfills very high aesthetic requirements with its shape and colour. On the frontside a poem is engraved.

The pot's measurements are 26 cm x 21 cm x 6 cm.


A round pot with 27 cm diameter, 11 cm high. In the middle of the pot's bottom, between three drainage holes, there is a chop. It is cut in brush writing and reads „Shin Shin workshop made“.

An oval pot measuring 38 cm x 28 cm x 8 cm. On the bottom there is a chop reading „Ban Kei“.

Measurements of the pot: 47,5 cm x 13,5 cm x 3,5 cm

This pot stands out due to its simple elegance. Measurements of the pot: 34 cm x 18 cm x 6,5 cm

Interesting and rare is the shape of the drainage hole.

This Japanese pot is not as old, only about 60 years, but it meets the taste of high quality bonsai ceramics. Fingertraces and the examination of the surface by microscope prove that it was made completely by hand. Measurements of the pot: 21 cm x 15 cm x 6 cm.

Measurements of the pot: 28 cm x 18 cm x 6 cm

Poem on the front side.



(Article to be continued as required)

All these pots are from the collection of Paul Lesniewicz.

Text and photographs: Peter Krebs

Translation: Heike van Gunst