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wong tsz mei Art Blog

The Sound of Stone (part 1 )

by tszmei , February 14, 2011—12:00 AM

Topics: China-wares, the amelioration of potteries

(Part 1 : The identification of porcelains of the reign of Kangxi by sound)

The assemblage and dissipation of antiquities are interrelated. The lifetime collections of many virtuosi had ended in plunder or loss. Therefore we were much perturbed to experience the mutable of life,while the pampered antiques also met with the misfortune of impermanent. During the long course of collections,even the cached curiosities of the emperors were also dispersed elsewhere all the time. In the period between late Ming and early Qing dynasty,the dispersal of treasures of royal court was mainly through pledge, mortgage and aution,and such situation became worser when political instability, internal turmoil,and external afflictions struck the country. The occurrences of loot and theft made the exodus of Chinese art objects disperse everywhither,and then in the hands of antique dealers the art objects scattered to other places farther away.Maybe the real treasures are just lodged in some shabby shops in the street corners waiting for the real connoisseurs. However the identification of artifacts not just requires good sense of sight for differentiation,which also needs the keen sense of hearing.Only the quick-eared and the sharp-eyed is the supereminent connoisseurship.

China ___s last emperor Pu Yi had abdicated his throne in 1917 but still lived in the palace.of the Forbidden City until 1924.The substantial expenditure on high palace living, the embezzlement of internal affairs department ,induced the financial difficulties,for the palace was unable to make the ends met.As a result, a portion of the palace spending was relying on putting gold and silver wares, jewelry,art objects in pledge for loans to cope with.Even a large quantities of court treasures were collateralized and were deposited in banks__™ warehouses.When these valuable lodgments could not be redeemed at the prescribed date according to the contract, the bank would put all the collection up to auction and would notify the jade line, the antique line about the arrangements.The actions of making bids by bidders were named ___sealing up goods___ at that time. A spring in 1924,a large number of antiquities was auctioned by the Beijing Yien Yieh Commercial Bank.Among all the articles for bidding, the bid of a batch of porcelains from royal kiln was not enthusiastic,for the china-wares seemed being newly transported from Jing De Zhen(Jing De has been a ___kiln town___ producing quality porcelains since Dong Han Dynasty,from 25 to 220,and is renowned worldwide). Moreover,holding in hand,people could felt the brim and bottom of the China-ware were a bit harsh to the touch,which was a symptom of new products, Therefore,although the ceramic bodies were thin covering with transparent glazes,and the fine depicting landscape or flower d__cor brought out the best in the enamel colors,besides the reign mark ___Great Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi___ (reigning years of Kangxi 1662-1722) at the bottom, people didn__™t think that the batch of porcelains had experienced 300 years of history,for the harshness should have been worn away in such long time. According the substantial evidence,the porcelains were much alike the products newly unpacked from kiln.

A supereminent connoisseur named Zhang Yunyan concluded that these porcelains were authentic treasures of the Kangxi period. His unique trick of authentication was : holding the vessel in hand, flipped at it__™s body and then put it close to ear and listened. He was informed of the remarkable quality of the art object by dint of his ability of making out the intonation of porcelains.Later on, the ascertainment of the past history of these ceramics made known that they were deposited in the imperial warehouse without unpacking since their arriving Beijing from Zing De Zhen at a time during the Kangxi reign. 300 year in package without exposing to light, without the touches of hands, a bit of harshnesses on the brims and at the bottoms of the China-wares were natural thing. In 1923, when the Qing palace mortgaged this porcelains to the bank, they were the original packagings,with the rice husks inside, of 300 years ago.(In the picture is a Blue-and-white Bell-shaped Cup Painted with Human Figures of the reign of Kangxi.)

Art connoisseur involve the particularity about taste and quality. In the whole world, only the enhancement of quality is the real improvement.For instance,porcelains were the amelioration of potteries.China is the country which had invented ceramics at the earliest and as early as more than 3000 years ago in Shang dynasty, our ancestors in the firing process of creating white potteries and stamped pattern hard potteries,they continously improved and selected the molding clay,and also upgrading their firing technology that the original porcelain came into being.after all the afforts. Facing the sallow ware with repaired traces all over it__™s body,we hardly believe that there is any relationship between it and our daily porcelain tableware.Heritage archaeologists had identified such ceramic as original porcelain by hearing it__™s sound which clanged with a flip.The antique could voice their identity,but can we hear that?



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