Archives for the month of: June, 2012

W100xD70xH130mm, China

This sweet mountain is in fact a pen holder (particularly like the little guy on the top grabbing hold of the rock as if he is scared of falling off), this is perhaps one that is made for a child, like this water drip.  Like today’s parents, parents in the past has also wracked their brains trying to get the child interested in studying or at least stay at the desk.  See our other version at Ceramic Pen Holder.

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W50xD40xH100mm, China

This is the clay toy of  Dah A Fu, we have previous talked about his story in an early post “Clay Toy A-Fu“.  Most of the A-Fu figurine have him seated, this is an unusual version, but from his accessories we can determined that he is A-Fu.  On his head, he is wearing peony (a symbol of wealth), the costume is the five fok jacket (a symbol of ease and comfort), around his neck is a locket (a symbol of longevity).  In the seated version, he is also hugging a lion with green fur (a symbol of protection from evil) and wearing a pair of court shoes (successful in the court examination).  All the wishes from the parents to the child are projected onto the figurine.

Textile width 380mm, China

Hand woven fabric is a tradition art for the minority tribes in China.  Traditionally, the hand woven textile would be used for the small duvet for the child, the dowry of the bride, the keep sake head wrap, the decoration of ceremony – a significant piece of textile.  Not only are they functional they are also a show of love and care, however, at the highly industrialized China its concept of tradition and its function are both at risk of being replaced by something more trendy and more convenient to obtain, losing to either one would seize the continuation of this craft.

W130xD50xH230mm, China

This figurine is a Shou Shan stone carving, the Shou Shan stone is famous for its wealth of colours, the artist would made use of the colour to form the composition of the carving work, all the carvings are one off piece of artwork.

The warrior of this carving is riding on a Kirin (yes, its the same mythical creature as on the beer can) with bats accompanying them.  The Kirin (together with the Phenoix, the turtle and the dragon) is believed by the Chinese to be one of the four old saintly creatures.  Its a creature of heaven and not of the earth, those that were captured by the gods became their carriage (as on this figurine).  The Kirin has the head of a dragon, horns of a deer, eyes of a lion, the body of a tiger, the scale of fish, but despite this fierce appearance it is a kind creature and believe to an animal of blessing.  As for the bats, they are also a symbol of blessing for the Chinese but as we all know what they look like I wont go into details in this post.

Here is a story about the bat and the kirin from the Ming dynasty which i find quite amusing; one day the Phoenix held a birthday party, as she was the queen of the birds all the birds from everywhere came to wish her happy birthday.  The bat, however, did not show up.  The Phoenix, being the queen, was not please at all, so she summoned for the bat and asked, “you live under my rule, where are you so arrogant and did not come when invited?”  The bat answered, “I have craws, I am a beast, why should I pay my respect to a bird?”  Then the Kirin held his birthday party and the bat did not show up, the Kirin was angry and condemned the bat, the bat answered, “I have wings, a bird, why should I come to a beast party?”  Then the Phoenix and the Kirin met up and of course the bat incident came up in their conservation, “what a world this is coming to that there is such non bird non beast creature, how frustration is that.”  As time moves on from the Ming Dynasty, I feel that the bats now would claim to be a bird in front of the Phoenix and a beast in front of the Kirin, a fence sitter in all sense.

W700xH1100mm, China

This is a Chinese new year print of the famous yang liu qing school, different from the new year print from other areas / schools, the yang liu qing prints combined the art of printing and painting in one.  Lines for the painting are first carved out from a piece of wood, black water base ink is then applied on the wood block and printed onto the paper by rubbing.  Once there is a sharp outline of the image, water base colour is then applied, giving varies tones of colour to the print.  Then a thick powder colour is used to give all the details to the painting.  The yang liu qing school began at the end of the Ming dynasty; it brought on the tradition of detail painting of the Sung dynasty and combined it with the printing technique popular in the Ming dynasty giving it an unique appearance.

This print is one print of a pair of door gods (traditional doors in China always comes in pairs), Qin Qiong, the other door will be of  Wei Chi Gong.  The legend of the 2 door gods goes like this; during the Tang dynasty an old dragon made a bet with a fortune teller and violated the law of the heaven.  As a punishment the supreme god Jade Emperor ordered Wei Zheng to have it killed at noon the next day.   Hearing the news, the old dragon went to see the Tang Emperor and begged him to help him, the Tang Emperor agreed.  The next day the Tang Emperor summon Wei Zheng to court and asked him to play a game of Chinese chess with him, hoping that if the game is long enough he will miss the noon execution.  During the long game Wei Zheng dosed off and in his dream he went to kill the dragon.  Not knowing the whole story,  the ghost of the dragon felt bitter that the Tang Emperor did not keep his words and came to haunt the court everyday.  Wei Zheng found out and send 2 generals, Qin Qiong and Wei Chi Gong, to guard the gate of the palace and this scared off the dragon.  The Tang Emperor felt bad that the 2 generals do not get a break and asked artists to make a painting of them to be put on the doors, and this seems to have the same effects, the rumor spread and now the door gods are all over China.

W20xL150xH100mm, China

Today, lunar 5th May, is the Duan Wu Festival, better know as the Dragon Boat festival.  It is a day to commemorate the death of the Chinese hero Qu Yuan.  Qu Yuan was poet from the Warrings State Period,(278 BC), he was a close aid to the emperor helping the Chu Guo state becoming a strong state.  Being loyal to his country he refused to collaborate with the corrupted higher ranking officers and empress, for this they kept him away from the emperor.  Despite his advice and objection for a treaty with the Qin Guo state, the emperor was lured to visit the Qin, was held captive and died there .  When the son of the emperor took over Qu Yuan was sent into exile.  Qin attacked and conquered the Chu; Qu Yuan, heart broken that his country was lost committed suicide in the river Mi Luo Jiang.  Hearing the news the folks steer boats to rescue him but neither him nor his body could be found, fearing that the fish would eat away his body, they beat drums to scare the fish away and throw in dumplings to keep the hungry fish away.

DIA80xH80mm, China

Nowadays spittoon has almost disappear, at least in Hong Kong, there only place you might still be able to see one are in the old tea houses (e.g. the famous Luk Yu Tea House), however, they are used more as a rubbish bin or at most to gather used tea, so luckily you will not see them in action.  Before my research for this post, I have always seen spittoon as a very Chinese object, it is very surprising to find out that spittoon was originated from the UK and the USA and that it was a popular object in the 19th century at places where men gathers.  The main use for spittoon in the West was for spitting of the chew tobacco, when it was imported to China, it was used as a  receptacle for spit (usually of a larger size).  This small spittoon was one of the accessories for smoking opium, it would have been placed on the opium bed within reach of the user.

W70xD70xH100mm, China

I am sure not by the craftsman’s intent but this item just put a smile on my face, a grinning pomegranate! It can even pass as an anime figure.

Pomegranate was imported into China in the Han dynasty from Persia, because of its beautiful flowers, it was immediately loved by the country.  It blossoms in lunar May, being such an event May is also known as the pomegranate month.  Apart from its flowers, pomegranate is seen as a symbol of blessing in China; a symbol of fertility, a single fruit it bears over 1000 seeds!

DIA270mm, China

This is a set of bronze plate which is believed to be used for food offering to the gods.  The Chinese uses ceramic for dinnerware, it is uncommon to use food using bronze or metal ware (well, now we have cast iron casserole, stainless steel bowls, enamel dishes, etc) .

W470xD370xH950mm, China

This is one chair from a pair.  This type of chair is known as “chair with armrest, scroll style headrest with guai zi dragon pattern”, my translate is not perfect but believe me the Chinese name is equally as long.  The armrest need no explanation, the scroll style headrest refers to the top of the head board that turns in at the back similar to that of the old Chinese scroll.  The head board is decorated with relief carving panels of blessing symbols.  The guai zi dragon is the pattern that forms the back and the armrest of the chair, it is also echoed as a decoration on front of the seat and at bottom of the legs.  Guai zi dragon is a pattern that is commonly used in furniture and architectural decoration; it is broadly divided into 2 styles, a more realistic type where from pattern one can tell the head and claws of the dragon where the dragon is usually quite animated and a more conceptual style (as on this chair).

This type of chair was popular from the middle Qing dynasty, particularly in the Southern region of China.  It is normally placed in the study, on the 2 sides of the table or facing the table.