Cloud-Shape Pillow with Incised Floral Motif
Liao dynasty (907-1125 C.E.)
stoneware with amber and green glazes
4 x 7 x 6 inches
Although it may be hard to imagine sleeping comfortably on such a rigid form, this ceramic piece is indeed a pillow. Fortunately, if your head was placed upon this pillow you wouldn’t much care, since you would have passed away. This piece is a mortuary pillow, used in burial chambers. It mimics forms used in everyday life made of wicker or bamboo. Pillows of bamboo and wicker may seem to us no less uncomfortable, but they were used by the Chinese. The hole on the side of the pillow is simply a technical necessity for the ceramist; it allows heat and air to escape from the hollow form during firing.
This particular object is a type known as a “cloud-shape pillow,” obviously named for its flowing contours. It can also be described as a “petal pillow” for its stylized incised drawing of a peony. The peony—the “Queen of Flowers”—symbolized wealth and beauty. Most likely this pillow would have been for a woman.
Eberhard, pp. 231-232
Fernald, pp. 2-8
Yutaka, p. 56