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Shiwan Ornamental Goldfish Bowl

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Directory: Antiques: Decorative Art: Ceramics: Pre 1900: Item # 1205828

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Shiwan Ornamental Goldfish Bowl

Goldfish and the larger Koi have always been treasured by the Chinese. In the Chinese language, fish sounds the same as plentiful. There is a four character pun "nian nian yau yu" which means every year there is plenty remaining. Having goldfish around is very auspicious indeed. This large goldfish bowl is in two units. The bowl is supported by the stand. It was a fine piece of pottery made by potters in Shiwan, the pottery capital of China. The ornaments on the bowl consisted of floral themes as well as figural themes. They were applied onto the bowl and hand colored in high fired glazes. The cobalt blue was particularly expensive. It was a wealthy person who commissioned the fish bowl to be made. In Southern China, this was used as an ornamental object in the garden. Surprisingly it is still in good condition after all this time. I grew up in Hong Kong and practically everyone kept goldfish. Today goldfish and tropical fish now dwell in fish tanks equipped with the latest technology. However, back in the 1950's, people were keeping goldfish in large pots. Although I have been a guest at many wealthy mansions, I do not recall any goldfish bowl that is as elaborate as the one here. Considering its large size and the time element spent in creating the decorations, I would think this was a special commission and a rare object. This object was purchased from a collector of Shiwan wares who lived near Shiwan in the Pearl River delta. According to his dating, he placed it in the late 19 century Qing Dynasty.$$ Please note there is a little drainage hole on the side of the bowl located near the bottom. It serves as a drainage bowl for changing water. Before electric pumps were in use, goldfish could live in a large bowl such as this. If one questions whether it will still serve as a gold fish bowl, the answer is yes, providing the small cracks are only on the surface. The bowl, however, has not been tested. If it indeed holds water, its capacity is good enough for five small fish. Cleaning is made easy by letting the water out from the hole at the bottom. Provenance: Shiwan, near Foshan in Guangdong Province Date: 19 century Dimensions: 33 inches in diameter and 33 inches high Condition: the base is in good condition. The rim of the bowl has a four inch break that has been restored. There is a little bit of loss on some of the applique due to age and handling heavy garden objects.

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