Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Chinese celadons (greenware) are among my favourite pieces. They are usually plain yet exquisite and so pleasing to behold. Some have incised peony, chrysanthemum flowers, lotus patterns or applique of fish or phoenix. The zenith of quality celadon production was during the Song Dynasty (10-12c) and the most famous kiln site was in Longquan.
After applying a green glaze, the piece is high fired in the kiln through an oxygen reduction process. If oxygen gets in, it will turn out into golden or brown instead of the beautiful sought after green. Moreover, if the firing is not regulated precisely (think its 1200 degree celsius) the outcome is stoneware rather than porcelain celadons.
The highest quality ceramics made for the emperor or officials are today known as imperial or official ware. Collectors pay a fortune for them. The only one I have is seen in the first photo, a bluish green (called mystic green) dish. I bought it in Jakarta over a quarter century ago. The earlier provenance is unknown but was probably a royal gift to a local dignitary. There were increasing trade during this period with SE Asia and among the items were chinese exportware ceramics, including celadons.
"Chinese Celadons and other related wares in Southeast Asia" compiled by the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society and published by Arts Orientalis Singapore provides photos and information on the subject.
Chinese blue-white ceramic is a technique of cobalt blue decoration on white (kaolin) clay pieces before they are glazed and high fired. They are more accurately referred to as underglazed blue ceramics. This is the most important contribution by the Yuan Dynasty (13-14c) potters. It probably reached its highest quality during the Ming and Ching Dynasties that followed where fine porcelain as opposed to stoneware were made. They became so popular locally and abroad that vast quantities are produced and shipped out particularly to SE Asia. They are commonly referred to Chinese exportware. During a short period in the Ming Dynasty when trade was banned, the potters went to Thailand and Vietnam there began large production by these countries for export.
My collection of underglaze blue exportware were purchased mostly from Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia and were from the Ming and Ching period.
Besides the well known celadons (greenware) and blue-white (underglaze blue), Chinese ceramics include multicoloured (polychrome) and single coloured (monochrome) like white, black and brown glazed wares.
Polychromes I am pleased to display my oldest Chinese piece, a tricoloured bowl of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) from the recent salvaged “Tang Cargo”, a pair of Ching altar vases, 3 rare ceramic wall plaques and 3 increasingly popular Nonya (Straits Chinese/Peranakan) pieces. Apart from the Tang bowl, the others are family heirlooms.
Monochromes. These compose the white, black and brown glazed pieces. They are of bowls, tea-bowls, jarlets, a covered box and a kendi. They are mainly from the Song and Yuan periods (11-13c). The kendi (last photo) is probably a late 19c Ching piece.