Chinese Antique Glossary – Q

Qin

The qin is a musical instrument favored by Chinese scholars. It is a stringed instrument, resembling a Western zither. The body, or sounding box, of a qin was usually made of two different types of wood. The upper section was made of tong wood and the lower part of zi wood. It was originally a five-stringed instrument, but it is believed that as early as the Zhou dynasty two further strings were added. All surviving qin are seven-stringed.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – P

Pentad

A Buddhist group of five figures: a Buddha in the center, flanked by two Bodhisattvas and two disciples.

Parinirvana

The pose in sculpture that symbolizes the Buddha’s death and transcendence, reclining on his right side with his head pointing north. In Sri Lanka, there is a slightly different “sleeping pose” that is sometimes distinguished from the parinirvana itself.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – O

Oxidation

When a ceramic object is fired, the atmosphere in the kiln is crucial to final appearance of the piece. The term ‘oxidation’ indicates that the object has been fired in a kiln with an ‘oxidizing’ atmosphere – that is one into which oxygen has been allowed to enter. Under these conditions oxygen may combine with the constituents of the glaze and/or body material of the piece. The most obvious effect is upon iron oxide, which may be converted from ferrous oxide (4FeO) to ferric oxide (2Fe2O3) taking on a warm, brownish, tone.

Oni (Japan)

Lecherous horned devils of ferocious mien and low intelligence. Their folklore derives originally from China.

Chinese Antique Glossary – N

Nanmu (Cedar)

This silvery-brown softwood was traditionally prized as one of the best materials for cabinet construction. Nanmu burl is typically used for decorating cabinet doors and table panels. More than thirty varieties are found south of the Yangzi River, Hainan and Vietnam. In addition to furniture, nanmu is used in the construction of houses and boats. Once dry, the wood does not warp or split, unlike regular wood, and can be sanded and polished to create a smooth, hard surface, making it ideal for furniture manufacture. See also Huanghuali, Yumu and Zitan.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – M

Ming Dynasty

1368-1644 and comprising:

Hongwu, 1368-1398
Jianwen, 1399-1402
Yongle, 1403-1425
Hongxi, 1425
Xuande, 1426-1435
Zhengtong, 1436-1449
Jingtai, 1450-1456
Tianshun, 1457-1464
Chenghua, 1465-1487
Hongzhi, 1488-1505
Zhengde, 1506-1521
Jiajing, 1522-1566
Longqing, 1567-1572
Wanli, 1573-1619
Taichang, 1620
Tianqi, 1621-1627
Chongzhen, 1628-1644

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Chinese Antique Glossary – L

Lacquer

Waterproof varnish made by layering numerous coats of the treated sap of a tree indigenous to China and later introduced to Japan. Colors can be combined and layered in relief as well as carved. In Chinese art, lacquer is usually the sap of the qi shu (lacquer tree), rhus verniciflua. The most popular colors are red and black.  The lacquer is applied to a number of different base materials including wood, bamboo, cloth, ceramic and metal.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – K

Kaolin

This is the name given to white-firing China clay used for making porcelain. The name derives from that of the Gaoling hills, from where the China clay used at the Jingdezhen kilns was obtained.

Kraak porselein

This term is applied to porcelain, mainly decorated in underglaze cobalt blue, which was exported to Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The name derives from the Dutch, and is a reference to the type of cargo ship, carrack, in which these porcelains were transported from Asia by the Portuguese.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – J

Jade

The term ‘jade’ and the Chinese term ‘yu’ have often been used loosely to designate a variety of hardstones. Their use should, however, be limited to jadeite and nephrite. Nephrite belongs to the amphibole group of minerals and is a silicate of calcium and magnesium. Its crystalline structure has the appearance of hair-like fibers felted together to form a closely integrated mass, and it is this which gives it its strength. Nephrite ranks as 6.5 on the Moh scale of hardness. Nephrite has been worked in China since the Neolithic period. Much of the nephrite used in China came from Khotan and Yarkand in Central Asia.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – H

Han Dynasty

206 BC-AD 220 and comprising Western Han, 206 BC-AD8; Xin, AD 9-23; and Eastern Han, AD 25-220.

Hetaomu (Juglans, walnut)

This softwood was used primarily during the Qing Dynasty in the Shanxi region. While hetaomu encompasses a variety of species, it typically has an open-grain texture, with colors tending towards golden brown to reddish brown. These features make this wood well-suited to furniture construction.

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Chinese Antique Glossary – G

Grisaille

Deriving from the French word gris (grey), this is a painting executed entirely in monochromatic tones of grey and white. Although often used for study sketches, a painting en grisaille can be a completed work in its own right. Sometimes it has been executed as a model for an engraver to work from, or is the initial compositional underpainting for an unfinished picture.
In Chinese ceramics this term is sometimes used to describe porcelains decorated with black or dark brown overglaze enamel.

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