Jade has been used in China for ornamental and practical purposes from an early period in history.
Jade (nephrite) was regarded as a symbol of purity and integrity, it was also prized for its magical properties. It was carved and polished into all sorts of objects and was also used for rituals, with such artefacts as the Bi disc and the Cong, both of which we do not now know exactly what their functions were.
Chinese jade refers to the mineral nephrite. Nephrite comes in different shades of green as well as other colours all depends on how much iron, or trace elements are present. Another mineral jadeite was introduced into China in the 18th century. When it was imported from Burma.
Cloisonné is an ancient technique in a multi-step enameling processes. It was first developed in the Near East, then spread to the Byzantine empire and from there to China. In antiquity it was used for jewellery and small fittings for clothes, weapons and other small objects. By the 14th century the Chinese were using it for much larger objects such as bowls and vases.
It was mainly used to decorate metal or ceramic objects. The earliest dated Chinese cloisonné is from the Ming period of (1426 -1435) a very few cloisonné pieces have been dated to the Yongle reign (1403 – 1424) on stylistic grounds.
A Rare Black Lacquer Nine Dragon Dish – Crisply carved in shallow relief with a four-clawed dragon ferociously writhing amongst eight smaller dragons, all reserved on a diaper ground, the large central medallion encircled by a wide frieze of lingzhi fungus at the rim.
Ming or earlier. 27.8cm diameter.
Note: The dish with its ‘Long Jiu Zi’ (Nine Sons of the Dragon) design bears a strong similarity to a circular ink cake designed by the Ming Dynasty painter Ding Yunpeng (1547-1628), as recorded in the collection of ink designs Fangshi Mopu of 1588.
The term “lacquer” stems from the Sanskrit word laksha. Qidiao is a Chinese art form of inlaying with differently coloured lacquer and is very labour intensive. The production process is called Daioqi (carving lacquer). Cinnabar is used to describe the Chinese style of red lacquer, but cinnabar is in fact the name of a mineral, a form of mercury sulfide used to dye the lacquer, other colours can be achieved by adding minerals such as carbon to gain a black colour and orpiment for yellow, Some of the first uses for lacquer were to make clay vessels watertight and as a preserve for wood.
Hu a wine storage vessel current throughout the Bronze Age and continuing into the Han period. In Shang and Early Zhou periods two types were common.
One was tall and slender, often with a cover that could be reversed and used as a bowl; this type was circular in section and often rather sparingly decorated. The other type was elliptical in section, rather more heavily made and usually richly decorated with taotie masks.
Although they are overlooked and not given much of a thought by the antique collector. They are a very important subject, for without them where would the porcelain admirer be? So let us delve a little into their history.
Ancient kilns sites were distributed over a large area of China. They would be established in locations with easy access to clay mining, located near a wooded area, where firewood could be obtained for the kilns, also near a waterway for transportation by boat.
Hill Jar, or hill-censer, called in Chinese po-shan-lu. In bronze these are surmounted by a roughly conical cover with holes, so cast and decorated as to resemble hills piling up to a central peak. The holes occur behind each rising hill, and through these the incense could emerge.
The Jue is a wine vessel with a body of narrow elliptical or circular section. It has a large open spout for pouring, and opposite this a flattened and extended lip; there is a loop handle on the side of the body. The vessel stands on three legs of triangular section, that spread a little.
The term scholars objects, refers to artistic items traditionally used by a Chinese scholar in his studio. The studio would be in a small building away from his home and would house useful objects, comprising of tables and chairs, table screen, ink stones, brush pots, wrist rest, books, seals, paper tray, scholars rock, various brushes, water-droppers, scroll weights as well as musical instruments. Objects that were not only useful, but things that could stimulate creativity.
The history of the scholar dates back to the Tang dynasty (618 – 907) when the court held civil exams for the selection of officials. These tests assessed the knowledge and ability of the candidate on a wide range of subjects, such as law, agriculture, calligraphy, painting, the arts and music. This in turn created a class of intellectual and artistically trained scholars.
Who I no doubt would have loved to sit and muse with a V.I.P Jiu 8 coffee tisane in their hands. So I have created a few to be enjoyed as we meander through the past.