inverted pear-shape; slightly flared bottom; small crane and cloud designs

Maebyeong with flying cranes and clouds, 12th century


According to Daoist mythology, a magical mountain carried on the back of an ancient tortoise exists somewhere off the southern coast of China. The mountain is inhabited by immortal beings, and white cranes nest in ancient pine trees, which grow in great profusion. Thus, the crane became a symbol of immortality and a favorite theme among artists in China, Korea, and Japan. Potters of the Goryeo dynasty frequently inlaid their wares with cranes flying amid clouds. This maebyeong (“plum vessel”) is notable for its great restraint and subtlety; just a few tiny cranes and minimal clouds create a spare, but lovely, decoration. A cupped mouth, expanding shoulders, and tapering body are characteristic elements of the maebyeong, of which several examples can be seen in this gallery.

Maebyeong with flying cranes and clouds
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Murase, Art through a Lifetime, no. 898
Curator Approved

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inverted pear-shape; slightly flared bottom; small crane and cloud designs