This iconic lion-head flask closely resembles a leather canteen. Its sides are inflated to form a sharp ridge at the top, beneath the handle that gracefully arcs from the back of the flask. The flask features a short upright cylindrical spout embellished with a raised collar. The narrow front and back of the flask are adorned with a long, straight clay fillet, while two additional raised fillets on the broadsides mimic sewn seams, creating long sweeping arcs. The flask is covered with a transparent glaze that exhibits a pale bluish tint in the recessed areas. The glaze spreads naturally extending toward its base, exhibiting the highly sophisticated firing technique of the Tang Dynasty.
This magnificent and extremely rare flask is the finest production of the Xing kiln of Tang Dynasty. Xing kiln is one of the oldest kilns known for producing white porcelain and dates back to the Northern Dynasty. The kiln, named after Xingzhou (currently known as Xintai in Hebei province, China), produced porcelain renowned for its snow-white appearance. The white porcelain from the Xing kiln emphasises the harmony between shape and colouration rather than intricate decoration. According to the ancient book Chajing (The Book of Tea) by the Chinese tea master and writer Lu Yu, Xingzhou white porcelain is described as “resembling silver” and “resembling snow”. During the Tang Dynasty, white porcelain flourished in the northern region, while green porcelain flourished in the southern region, reflecting a sense of mutual respect and distinction.
The lion-head flask serves as a prototype of the leather canteen, which thrived during the Tang Dynasty, resembles high social status. Originally crafted by the Khitan people, a nomadic ethnic group in the northern region, the leather canteen was frequently carried by them during migrations. Over time, the Han Chinese were influenced by the Khitan people and also began to carry these canteens, confirming the diverse cultural exchange between the Central Plains and the surrounding ethnic groups.