Every Pieces Tells A Story

Irv Graham

This Kangxi Rouleau vase depicts a legend that dates to 3rd-century China. The central figure, a young man called Pan’an, was the man all the women in the neighbourhood were crazy for. He was very elegant, very handsome, almost like a rock star. In this vase, he is richly dressed, with a fan and hair ornament. But his health was quite fragile, which is why he is being carried in a chariot.

On the balcony and in the windows, elegantly dressed women can be seen throwing fruit to him. At the end of his walk, according to the legend, his chariot would be full of fruit. You can find many representations of this story in the 18th century. That said, depictions on vases of Pan’an — who remains a famous character in China today — are relatively rare.

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Why Buy Chinese Antiques?

Chinese Version 为何要购买中国古董

Investing in Chinese porcelain & works of art can be very profitable, but be sure to know what you are buying is of good quality – and genuine! There is a lot of fake items on the market.

The entire global market for Chinese artworks totaled US$8.5 billion in 2013, some 28% of the value of total sales of art and antiques auctioned around the world, with mainland China accounting for 70% of the total.

Within this sector, the highest average prices were found in older period pieces, reflecting a strong cultural focus in China, as well as limited supply.

The wealth, limited supply, and economic dynamics within China all point to a solid outlook for long-term growth in the Chinese art & antiques market.

The chart below shows the distribution of fine art auction sales revenue worldwide in 2016 by country.

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Recent Trip To Jingdezhen

I have not long been back from a trip to China, I traveled all over China for a few months and have to say the place and the people were amazing. The people were so hospitable and helpful and the cities so impressive, exciting and welcoming. The country on a whole is astonishing, breathtaking & stunning.

I decided to travel to Jingdezhen the porcelain capital of the world where I got to see a lot of stuff including a fully operational dragon kiln in action as well as witnessing porcelain production from mining kaolin in the surrounding hills to handling pieces fresh out the kiln.

Had to laugh when i learned for many producers their biggest customers were western auction houses who regularly order large shipments with strict instructions to make the pieces look old… No wonder so many western provincial auction house are building big new modern auction gallery’s.


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How To Identify Antique Chinese Porcelain Through Symbolism

Unless you have been around Chinese antique porcelain for a number of years then simply identifying a piece as Chinese & not Japanese can be confusing.

I can not tell you how to identify Chinese porcelain pieces with a 100% accuracy via this article but I can show you certain traits & symbolism commonly used on Chinese porcelain that will hopefully help you identify or understand the meaning of symbols used in Chinese porcelain production.

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How To Tell If A Chinese Vase Is Valuable

So how do you tell if a Chinese vase is valuable?

You cant really! Unless you have years of experience buying, selling, studying & collecting. There are just way too many factors to be taken into consideration such as:

  • Age
  • Decoration
  • Period
  • Artist
  • Palette
  • Shape
  • What Kiln

The list goes on.

Another factor to take into consideration is the fact that there is no price discovery mechanism when it comes to Chinese antique porcelain, meaning a vase may sell today for $1000 but a month later that same or similar vase could sell for $5000 or even $10,000 so its virtually impossible to put an accurate price on a piece in a market so erratic.

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Cizhou Ware

cizhou-meipingThis bottle is an example of Cizhou ware, a type of ceramic made in the northern part of China during the Song dynasty (960-1279). The term Cizhou encapsulates a range of wares made in several regions of northern China, often consisting of a course stoneware body covered with a white slip (a thin layer of diluted firing clay), and then decorated with a contrasting colour.

Vessels of this shape have traditionally been referred to as meiping, literally ‘prunus vases’. However, some of these ‘prunus vases’ are inscribed with the Chinese words ‘fine wine’.

Cizhou wares were utilitarian at their time of production and were made in relatively large numbers.

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Ge ware – one of the great 5

ge-type-arrow-vaseGe ware, along with Guan, Ru, Ding and Jun, comprise the ‘ Five Great Wares of the Song Dynasty’. The problems of distinguishing the two crackled wares, Guan, and Ge, were discussed at length during a three-day conference held at the Shanghai Museum in 1992, and while no unanimity of opinion was reached, it was generally thought that those wares with a jinsi tiexian (‘gold thread and iron wire’) crackle should be designated Ge.

Recent archaeological researches suggest that Ge wares may have been made at kilns just outside the walls of the Southern Song palace at Hangzhou, while other suggest that they may have been made at kilns nearer to the centre of Longquan production. What all agree, is that Ge wares display the qualities that might be expected of vessels intended for imperial appreciation.

The name has been used for centuries, and the ceramic ware associated with it has traditionally been greatly admired by connoisseurs. Literature relates Ge ware to Guan, or official, ware but the place of its manufacture remains as much a subject of debate as its precise dating.

Ge ware is first mentioned in the Zhizheng zhiji by Kong Qi in 1363, where it is referred to as gegedong and gege ware. The author records the purchase of a ding-form tripod incense burner “refined, and though new, its appearance is rich and lustrous as though made in the past”. The name Ge first appears in the Ming Dynasty in the Xuande dingyipu.

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A Few Q & A On Imperial China

forbidden-cityDid the Chinese really invent gunpowder?

Yes, although the exact date is uncertain. Most scholars place this event in the ninth century A.D. Originally, gunpowder was used for launching rockets and fireworks. By the twelfth century, it was being used for cannons. Gunpowder was only one of a great many technological innovations that came from China, along with paper, the compass, and movable-type printing.

When was the Great Wall built?

Although sections of defensive walls had been built in the seventh century B.C., it was in 214 B.C. that the first Chinese Emperor commanded that these sections be unified into what would become the Great Wall of China. After the Qing dynasty came to power in the eighteenth century expansion of the wall was discontinued. Today, several sections have been renovated and are a world heritage site.

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