ShippodoShippodo 新古美術七寳堂


The Fascination of Porcelain
November 18, 2015 - 10:17 am
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Chinese

Since the 16th century, the West was fascinated with a material known today as porcelain or china. The expansion of trade with the West in the late sixteenth century, the Europeans became obssessed with this new material. One example that refects the fascination and yearning to create porcelain is Daniel Defoe's work, Robinson Carusoe describes his character producing earthenware objects but appears to have discovered the method of creating chinaware (for further reading: Lydia H. Liu, Robison Carusoe's Earthenware Pot. Critical Inquiry Vol. 25 No. 4 Summer 1999 Chicago:  pp. 728-757).  The Chinese, of course, were producing porcelain objects since eas early as the Yuan Dynasty or earlier and were exported to different regions. Yet the important point to take note is how the terms, porcelain and earthenware along with their distinctions and translation of both language and object misunderstood or reinterpreted. Defoe's work tries to connect chinaware with the earthenware objects made by his character, but during the late 17th century Eruope was in a frenzy to acquire porcelains from China, where porcelain became more valuable than gold. In addition, porcelain was further traded with the new world as Andre Gunder Frank mentions in his book, ReOrient: Global Economy in Asian Age:

Europeans derived more profits from their participation in the intra- Asian "country trade" than they did from their Asian imports into Europe, even though many of the latter in turn generated further profits for them as re-exports to Africa and the Americas. So the Europeans were able to profit from the much more productive and wealthy Asian economies by participating in the intra-Asian trade..

Yet, it was not just the West that had an extreme appetite and fascination with Chinese porcelains. The Japanese too desired objects produced in China since the eighth century and when porcelain began to be traded around the fifteenth century or later, tea connoisseurs began to place orders with Chinese merchants to produce objects used in the tea room. It is interesting to note that the history of porcelain production in Japan began not from a Chinese potter who emigrated to Japan but came about by chance when Korean potters in the island of Kyushu discovered that there was kaolin deposits found in the region now known as Arita and Imari. The early works seen from the early Edo period reflect not only the preference in taste of the Japanese at the time, but also desires to acquire Ming dynasty porcelain objects and to recreate their forms and designs. Some research has brought to light that both Japanese potters and Chinese potters were influencing each other specifically in patterns and designs found in the early Qing dynasty and reflects the dense trade that occured in China and Japan with Chinese and Dutch ships travelling back and forth. 

Unlike most materials that have been traded between China and the rest of the world, porcelain became a material that different regions wanted to diversify the monopoly that China held. Also, with the discovery of the material, the West and Japan created objects reflecting their preferences and artistic developments further expanding the creative possibilities. 


Impressions on Folding Fans
June 9, 2013 - 10:27 am
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Japanese : Paintings

Rimpa School Fan Painting of Pine.Thoughts on Folding Fans.

The folding fan has become a rare sight today, excluding period costume gatherings, fanatics in Chinese or Japanese culture and fashion, or on a wall of a Chinese restaurant. Yet, most people are surprised to know about the history of how the folding fan came into being. The folding fan was thought to be invented around the 8th century in Japan. Initially the fan was constructed from strips of cedar wood strung together and were used as notepads (some go to the extent that the folding fan was the ancient version of a smartphone). By the Heian Period (794-1185), the design that the world is familiar with was developed. 

Even with the new re-designed and improved folding fan, they were not used to bring in cool breezes. Fans were used as a communication tool, subtly to express inner emotions, at times poems were written and sent between lovers, and special mannerisms using the fan were created. 

As trade expanded, the folding fan was introduced in Asia and in turn into Europe and distinct designs and cultures were born as the folding fan became popular. Yet seeing the folding fan from the west back to its homeland in Japan, it is interesting to see how the folding fan evolved simultaneously throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, where both cultures valued the folding fan as a key accessory and both used the fan as ways of communication.