Initially produced in China, celadons were highly prized for their resemblance to jade and the tranquil beauty of their glaze. They were produced and exported across Southeast Asia and the Middle East long before European involvement in the trade of Asian ceramics.
The celadons of the Longquan kilns in Zhejiang province were among the finest produced in China, and the potters there led stylistic and technical developments in celadon production from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) through to the early Ming (1368-1644). The range of glaze colour from greyish to blueish greens results from the impact of variations in kiln temperature and atmosphere on the iron oxide within the glaze. The levels of iron oxide also have an impact on end colour; a lower iron oxide content will generally result in a blueish colour, while higher levels will result in darker, olive tones.
The earliest tripod vessels were those made by Neolithic potters, and by the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC - 1046 BC) tripod censers were being cast in bronze. By the Song Dynasty censers had become associated with the scholar’s desk, owing to the renewed literati interest in archaic aesthetics and forms. Stylised and innovative variations on the form were created in ceramic primarily for use as incense burners by scholars wishing to inspire and enhance pursuits including calligraphy and guqin playing.