⟨ Object ⟩

Rooster Bowl

An over 500-year-old handicraft item of everyday life.

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Illustration / Furze Chan
Translation / Ian Tsang

公雞、牡丹、蝙蝠和綠葉,一同出現在白皙的陶器上,湊成了一隻「雞公碗」的所有元素。而細數起來,雞公碗的形象最早見於明朝成化年間(1465-1487年),曾是達官貴人們賞玩的精品,不過自從民窯的發展成熟後,雞公碗很快就在中國民間落地生根,而直至今日,甚至成為庶民文化中的經典設計。

傳統雞公碗的造型薄身,碗口寬、碗腳深,其弧度呈八角型。至於碗公上的圖案,多年以來都是由工匠手繪上去,廣東出產的多以「釉上彩」,即在燒成陶器後方繪製;至於在四川、湖南一帶,也有更講求工法的「釉下彩」,在半成品狀態時即繪製圖案。然而不論其工法為何,雞公碗始終是尋常百姓的器物,無論你是在家裡開伙,抑或外出到食店用餐,都不難發現它的身影。

如今,在大眾生產的洪流下,雞公碗也不免俗地以機械印刷取代人手繪製。儘管不影響使用,但雞公碗之美,很大程度都在於那人手繪製中,深淺不一的筆觸。所以,有意物色一隻雞公碗的朋友,可以到老社區的商店碰碰運氣,而聽說把手指彈向碗邊時,發出的聲音愈清脆代表品質愈佳;如果你不怕老闆發飆的話,不妨也試著彈彈看。

Roosters, peonies, bats and green leaves appear together on a piece of ceramic ware in fair white, representing all the elements making up a “rooster bowl”. The earliest form of rooster bowls can be traced back to the period between 1465 and 1487 in Ming Dynasty. It used to be an exquisite item for admiration and enjoyment among personages in high society. However, after civilian kilns became sufficiently developed, rooster bowls took root quickly in Chinese civilian society. At present, it has even become a classic design in civilian culture.

Traditional rooster bowls have a thin and octagon curved body, a wide rim and a high foot. Over the years, the drawings on the bowl have been hand-drawn by artisans. Bowls made in Guangdong make use of “overglaze decoration”, in which the decoration is applied after the pottery is glazed, but you can also find pottery made with the more technically-demanding “underglaze decoration” in Sichuan and Hunan, where the pattern is drawn before glazing is complete. Regardless of how it is decorated, there is no question about rooster bowls being an ordinary and down-to-earth utensil. Whether you are cooking at home or eating out, it is not difficult to spot them.

Nowadays, under the big current of mass production, machine printing has replaced hand-drawing in the production of rooster bowls, in keeping with the norm. Even though its use is not affected, the beauty of rooster bowls lies in large part in lines of uneven shades in hand drawing. Those who fancy finding a rooster bowl can try their luck searching for them in stores in old communities. It is said that when you knock on the side of the bowl with your finger, the crisper the sound is, the better is its quality. If you have no fear of the store owner getting mad, it does not hurt to try to flick it with your finger.