MING DYNASTYWe Buy Chinese Antiques
. From the beginning of the Ming dynasty, Ching-te Chen may be said to have become the ceramic metropolis of the empire, all the other potteries sinking to provincial status. So far as Western collections, at any rate, are concerned, it is not too much to say that 90 per cent, of the post-Yuan porcelains were made in this great pottery town.
What happened there in the stormy years which saw the overthrow of the Mongol dynasty and the rise of the native Ming is unknown to us, and, indeed, it is scarcely likely to have been of much interest. The Imperial factories were closed, and did not open till 1369, or, according to some accounts, 139S.the Ching-te Chen T’ao lu, which, as its name implies, should be well informed on the history of the place, a factory was built in 1369 at the foot of the Jewel Hill to supply Imperial porcelain (kuan tz’u), and in the reign of Hung Wu (1368-1398) there were at least twenty kilns in various parts of the town working in the Imperial service. They included kilns for the large dragon bowls, kilns for blue (or green) ware (ch’ing yao), “wind and fire” kilns,seggar kilns for making the cases for the fine porcelain, and Ian kuang kilns, which Julien renders fours a flammes etendues. The last expression implies that the heat was raised in these kilns by means of a kind of bellows (kuang) which admitted air to the furnace, and BushelPs rendering, “blue and yellow enamel furnaces,” ignores an essential part of both the characters used in the original.From this time onward there is no lack of information on the nature of the Imperial wares made during the various reigns, but it must be remembered that the Chinese descriptions are in almost every case confined to the Imperial porcelains, and we are left to assume that the productions of the numerous private kilns followed the same lines, though in the earlier periods, at any rate, we are told that they were inferior in quality and finish.
The Hung Wu $tjit palace porcelain, as described in the T’ao lu, was of fine, unctuous clay and potted thin. The ware was left for a whole year to dry, then put upon the lathe and turned thin, and then glazed and fired. If there was any fault in the glaze, the piece was ground down on the lathe, reglazed and retired. ” Con- sequently the glaze was lustrous (jung) like massed lard.” These phrases are now so trite that one is tempted to regard them as mere Chinese conventionalities, but there is no doubt that the material used in the Ming period (which, as we shall see presently, gave out in the later reigns) was of peculiar excellence. The raw edge of the base rim of early specimens does, in fact, reveal a beautiful white body of exceedingly fine grain and smooth texture, so fat and unctuous that one might almost expect to squeeze moisture out of it.
The best ware, we are told, was white, but other kinds are mentioned. A short contemporary notice in the Ko ku yao lun, written 1387, says, ” Of modern wares (made at Ching-te Chen) the good. There are, besides, ch’ing (blue or green) and black (hei) wares with gilding, including wine pots and wine cups of great charm.”, Such pieces may exist in Western collections, but they remain unidentified, and though there are several specimens with the Hung Wu mark to be seen in museums, few have the appearance of Ming porcelain at all. There is, however, a dish in the British Museum which certainly belongs to the Sling dynasty, even if it is a century later than the mark implies. The body is refined and white, though the finish is rather rough, with pits and raised spots here and there in the glaze and grit adhering to the foot rim; but it is painted with a free touch in a bright blue, recalling the Moham- medan blue in colour, the central subject a landscape, and the sides and rim divided into panels of floral and formal ornament. It must beallowed that the style of the painting is advanced for this early period, including as it does white designs reserved in blue ground as well as the ordinary blue painting on a white ground.
Yung Lo /Yong le1403~1424
The usual formulae are employed by the T’ao hi in describing the Imperial ware of this reign. It was made of plastic clay and refined material, and though, as a rule, the porcelain was thick, l there were some exceedingly thin varieties known as t’o t’ai or ” bodiless ” porcelains. Besides the plain white specimens, there 3 were others engraved with a point or coated with vivid red (hsien hung). The Po wu yao Ian, reputed a high authority on Ming porcelains and written in the third decade of the seventeenth century, adds ” blue and white ” to the list and gives further details of the wares. The passage is worth quoting in full, and runs as follows : ” I n the reign of Yung Lo were made the cups which it in the palm of the hand, with broad mouth, contracted waist, sandy (sha) foot, and polished base. Inside were drawn two lions rolling balls. Inside, too, in seal characters, was written Ta Ming Yung Lo men chih in six characters, or sometimes in four only, as fine as grains of rice. These are the highest class. Those with mandarin ducks, or floral decoration inside, are all second quality. The cups are decorated outside with blue ornaments of a very deep color, and their shape and make are very refined and beau- tiful and in a traditional style. Their price, too, is very high. As for the modern imitations, they are coarse in style and make, with foot and base burnt (brown), and though their form has some resemblance (to the old), they are not worthy of admiration.”
As may be imagined, Yung Lo porcelain is not common to-day, and the few specimens which exist in our collections are not enough to make us realize the full import of these descriptions. There are, however, several types which bear closely on the subject, some being actually of the period and others in the Yung Lo style. A fair sample of the ordinary body and glaze of the time is seen in the white porcelain bricks of which the lower story of the famous Nanking pagoda was built. Several of these are in the British Museum, and they show a white compact body of close but granular fracture; the glazed face is a pure, solid-looking white, and the unglazed sides show a smooth, fine-grained ware which has assumed a pinkish red tinge in the firing. The coarser porcelains of the period would, no doubt, have similar characteristics in body and glaze. The finer wares are exemplified by the white bowls, of wonderful thinness and transparency, with decoration engraved in the body or traced in delicate white slip under the glaze and scarcely visible except as a transparency. Considering the fragility of these delicate wares and the distant date of the Yung Lo period, it is surprising how many are to be seen in Western collections. Indeed, it is hard to believe that more than a very few of these can be genuine Yung Lo productions, and as we know that the fine white ” egg shell ” porcelain was made throughout the Ming period and copied with great skill in the earlier reigns of the last dynasty, it is not necessary to assume that every bowl of the Yung Lo type dates back to the first decades of the fifteenth century.
It is well nigh impossible to reproduce adequately these white porcelains,. It represents the ya shou pei in form, with wide mouth and small foot—the contracted waist of the Po wu yao Ian ; the foot rim is bare at the edge, but not otherwise sandy, and the base is glazed over, which may be the sense in which the word ” polished ” is used in the Po wu yao Ian. The ware is so thin and transparent that it seems to consist of glaze alone, as though the body had been pared away to vanishing point before the glaze was applied—in short, it is t’o t’ai or ” bodiless.” When held to the light it has a greenish transparency and the color of melting snow, and there is revealed on the sides a delicate but exquisitely drawn design of five-clawed Imperial dragons in white slip (not etched, as has too often been stated), showing up like the water-mark in paper. On the bottom inside is the date-mark of the period etched with a point in four archaic characters. A more refined and delicate ceramic work could hardly be imagined.
Close to this bowl in the Franks Collection there are two smaller bowls or, rather, cups which in many ways answer more nearly the description of the ya shou pei, though they are thick in substance and of coarser make. They have straight spreading sides, wide at the mouth, with foliate rim, and contracted at the foot. The foot rim is bare of glaze, but the base is covered. They are of an impure white ware with surface rather pitted, and inside is a lotus design traced in white slip under the glaze and repeated on radiating compartments. These are perhaps a product of the private factories. The same form is observed among the blue and white porcelain in two small cups, which are painted in blue with a landscape on the exterior and with bands of curled scrolls inside and the Yung Lo mark in four characters. The base is unglazed, and though they are undoubtedly intended to represent a Yung Lo type, these not uncommon bowls can hardly be older than the last dynasty. Another blue and white bowl in the Franks Collection has the Yung Lo mark and the scroll decoration inside, and on the exterior a long poem by Su Shih, covering most of the surface. It is painted in a grey blue, and the ware, though coarse, has the appearance of Ming manufacture, perhaps one of the late Ming copies which are mentioned without honor in the Po wu yao Ian. It is, however, of the Hsiang Yiian-p’ien illustrates in his Album one Yung Lo specimen, a low cylindrical bowl of the ” bodiless ” kind, ” thin as paper,” with a very delicate dragon and phoenix design, which s seen when the bowl /is held to the light and carefully inspected. This style of ornament is described as an hua (secret decoration), but it is not stated .whether, in this case, it was engraved in the paste or traced in white slip.
The mention of'”fresh red ” (lisien hung), which seems to have been used on the Yung Lo porcelain as well as in the succeeding Hsiian Te period, brings to mind a familiar type of small bowl with slight designs in blue inside, often a figure of a boy at play, the exterior being coated with a fine coral red, over which are lotus scrolls in gold. There are several in the British Museum, and one, with a sixteenth-century silver mount, was exhibited at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1910. The term hsien hung is certainly used for an underglaze copper red on the Hsiian Te porce- lain, and it is doubtful whether it can have been loosely applied to an ovcr glaze iron -red on the earlier ware. For the bowls to which I refer have an iron red decoration, though it is sometimes wonderfully translucent and, being heavily fluxed, looks like a red glaze instead of merely an overglaze enamel. Several of these red bowls have the Yung Lo mark, others have merely marks of commendation or good wish. Their form is characteristic of the Ming period, and the base is sometimes convex at the bottom, sometimes concave. They vary considerably in quality, the red in some cases being a translucent and rather pale coral tint, and in others a thick, opaque brick red. Probably they vary in date as well, the former type being the earlier and better. It is exemplified by an interesting specimen in the Franks Collection marked tan kuei (red cassia), which indicates its destination as a present to a literary aspirant, the red cassia being a symbol of literary success. This piece has, moreover, a stamped leather box of European—probably Venetian—make, which is not later than the sixteenth century. This, if any of these bowls, belongs to the Yung Lo period, but it will be seen presently that the iron red was used as an inferior but more workable substitute for the underglaze red in the later Ming reigns, and, it must be added, these bowls are strangely numerous for a fifteenth-century porcelain. That they are a Yung Lo type, however, there is little doubt, for this red and gold decoration (kinrande of the Japanese) is the adopted style which won for the clever Kioto potter, Zengoro Hozen, the art name Ei rdku, i.e. Yung Lo in Japanese.
Hsiian Te /Xuande 1426-1435
Possibly, however, this was not so much due to the nature of the material as to the method of its application, for Chinese writers are by no means unanimous about the paleness of the Hsiian Te blue. The Ch’ing pi ts’ang, for instance, states that ” they used su-p’o-ni blue and painted designs of dragons, phoenixes, flowers, birds, insects, fish and similar forms, deep and thickly heaped and piled and very lovely.”
Authentic specimens of Hsiian Te blue and white are virtually unknown, but the mark of the period is one of the commonest on Chinese porcelain of relatively modern date. In most cases this spurious dating means nothing more than that the period named was one of high repute ; but there is a type of blue and white, usually bearing the period mark of Hsiian Te, which is so mannered and characteristic that one feels the certainty that this really represents one kind at least of the Hsiian porcelain. It is usually decorated in close floral scrolls, and the blue is light dappled with darker shades, which are often literally ” heaped and piled ” (iui t’o) over the paler substratum.
I have seen examples of this style belonging to various periods,mostly eighteenth century, but some certainly late Ming. Seven examples of Hsiian blue and white porcelain are figured in Hsiang’s Album, comprising an ink pallet, a vase shaped like a section of bamboo, a goose-shaped wine jar, a vase with an elephant on the cover, a tea cup, a sacrificial vessel, and a lamp with four nozzles. In five of these the blue is confined to slight pencilled borders, merely serving to set off the white ground, which is compared to driven snow. The glaze is rich and thick, and of uneven surface, rising in slight tubercles likened to ” grains of millet.” This is the ” orange skin ” glaze. The blue in each case is hui hu ta ch’ing (deep Mohammedan blue). Of the two remaining instances, one is painted with a dragon in clouds, and the other with “dragon pines,” and in the latter case the glaze is described as ” lustrous like mutton fat jade,” and the blue as ” of intensity and brilliance to dazzle the eye.”
The impression conveyed by all these examples is that they represent a type quite different from that described as ” heaped and piled,” a type in which delicate pencilling was the desideratum, the designs being slight and giving full play to the white porcelain ground. It is, in fact, far closer in style to the delicately painted Japanese Hirado porcelain than to the familiar Chinese blue and white of the K’ang Hsi period.
A little flask-shaped vase in the Franks Collection, which purports to be a specimen of Hsiian Tg blue and white porcelain. It has a thick, ” mutton fat ” glaze of faint greenish tinge, and is decorated with a freely drawn peach bough in underglaze blue which has not developed uniformly in the firing. The colour in places is deep, soft and brilliant, but elsewhere it has assumed too dark a hue. It’s certificate is engraved in Chinese fashion on the box into which it has been carefully fitted—hsiian tz’u pao yueh p’ing, ” precious moon vase of Hsiian porcelain “— attested by the signature Tzti-ching, the studio name of none other than Hsiang Yiian-p’ien, whose Album has been so often quoted. Without attaching too much weight to this inscription, which is a matter easily arranged by the Chinese, there is nothing in the appearance of this quite unpretentious little vase which is incon- sistent with an early Ming origin.
On the same plate is a brush rest in form of a log raft, on which is a seated figure, probably the celebrated Chang – Ch’ien, floating down the Yellow River. The design recalls a rare silver cup of the Yuan dynasty, which was illustrated in the Burlington Magazine (December, 1912). Here the material is porcelain biscuit with details glazed and touched with blue, and the nien hao of Hsiian Te is visible on the upper part of the log beside two lines of poetry. Whether this brush rest really belongs to the period indicated or not, it is a rare and interesting specimen. Two other possible examples of Hsiian Te blue and white .
As to the other types of Hsiian ware named in the Po wu yao Ian, with one exception I can find no exact counterpart of them in existing specimens, though parts of the descriptions are illustrated by examples of apparently later date. Thus the form of the white tea cups, “with rounded body, convex base, and thread-like foot,” is seen in such bowls, which is proved by its mount to be not later than the sixteenth century. Other examples of these bowls will be discussed later. They are characterised by a convexity in the centre which cannot be shown in reproductions.The secret decoration (an hua) consists of designs faintly traced usually with a sharp-pointed instrument in the body and under the glaze. There is an excellent example of this in a high-footed cup in the Franks Collection which has the Hsiian Te mark, the usual faintly greenish glaze, beneath which is a delicately etched lotus scroll so fine that it might easily be overlooked and is quite impossible to reproduce by photographic methods. It is, no doubt, an early eighteenth-century copy of Hsiian ware.
The one exception mentioned above is the type represented by the ” barrel-shaped seats.” The description of these leaves no room for doubt that they belonged to a fairly familiar class of Ming ware, whose strength and solidity has preserved it in considerable quantity where the more delicate porcelains have disappeared. A good idea of the Ming barrel-shaped garden seat, ” with solid ground filled in with colours in engraved floral designs.” The other kind, ” with openwork ground, the designs filled in with colours (wu ts’ai), gorgeous as cloud brocades,” must have been in the style. These styles of decoration are more familiar to us on potiche-shaped wine jars and high-shouldered vases than on garden seats, but the type is one and the same. Quite a series of these vessels was exhibited at the
Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1910, and they are fully described in the catalogue. Some had an outer casing in openwork; others had the designs outlined in raised threads of clay, which contained the colors like the ribbons of cloisonne enamel ; in others, again, the patterns were incised with a point. The common feature of all of them was that the details of the pattern were defined by some emphatic method of outlining which served at the same time to limit the flow of the colours. The colours themselves consist of glazes containing a considerable proportion of lead, and tinted in the usual fashion with metallic oxides. They include a deep violet blue (sometimes varying to black or brown), leaf green, turquoise, yellow, and a colorless glaze or a white slip which served as white color, though at times the white was represented merely by leaving the unglazed body or biscuit to appear. These colored glazes differ from the on-glaze painted enamels in that they are applied direct to the body of the ware, and are fired at a relatively high temperature in the cooler parts of the great kiln, a circumstance expressed by the French in the concise phrase, couleurs de demi-grand feu.The central ornament consisted chiefly of figures of sages or deities in rocky landscape, or seated under pine trees amid clouds, dragons in clouds, or beautiful lotus designs; and these were con- tained by various borders, such as floral scrolls, gadroons, ju-i head patterns, fungus scrolls, and symbols hanging in jewelled pendants. As a rule, the larger areas of these vases are invested with a ground colour and the design filled in with contrasting tints. Sometimes the scheme of decoration includes several bands of ornament, and in this case—as on Plate 62—more than one ground colour is used. The Po wu yao Ian speaks of green (ch’ing) and dark blue (Ian) grounds, and existing specimens indicate that the dark violet blue was the commonest ground colour. Next to this, turquoise blue is the most frequently seen ; but besides these there is a dark variety of the violet which is almost black, and another which is dark brown, both of which colours are based on cobaltiferous oxide of manganese. It has already been observed that this type of decoration was frequently used on a pottery body as well as on porcelain.
The question of the antiquity of the above method of poly- chrome decoration is complicated by the contradictory accounts which Dr. Bushell has given of a very celebrated example, the statuette of the goddess Kuan-yin in the temple named Pao kuo ssu at Peking. The following reference to this image occurs in the T’ung ya, published in the reign of Ch’ung Cheng (1625-1643): ” The Chiin Chou transmutation wares (yao pien) are not uncommon to-day. The Kuan-yin in the Pao kuo ssu is a yao pien.” Dr. Bushell, who visited the temple several times, gives a minute description of the image, which contains the following passage :” The figure is loosely wrapped in flowing drapery of purest and bluest turquoise tint, with the wide sleeves of the robe bordered with black and turned back in front to show the yellow lining; the upper part of the cloak is extended up behind over the head in the form of a plaited hood, which is also lined with canary yellow.” To the ordinary reader, such a description would be conclusive. A fine example of Ming porcelain, he would say, decorated with the typical coloured glazes on the biscuit. Bushell’s comment, however, is that the ” colours are of the same type as those of the finest flower pots and saucers of the Chun Chou porcelain of the Sung dynasty.” It should be said that the temple bonzes insist that they can trace the origin of the image back to the thirteenth century. If these are indeed the typical Chun Chou glazes, then all our previous information on that factory, including Bushell’s own contributions, is worthless. In another work, however, the same writer states that it (the image in question) is “really enamelled in ‘ five colours ‘—turquoise, yellow, crimson, red brown and black.” This is precisely what we should have expected, and it can only be imagined that Bushell in the other passage was influenced by the statement in the T’ung ya that it was a furnace transmutation piece, a statement probably based on the super- stition that it was a miraculous likeness of the goddess, who her- self descended into the kiln and moulded its features. As to the other temple tradition, that it was made in the thirteenth century, it is not necessary to take that any more seriously than the myth concerning its miraculous origin, which derives from the same source.
It is hardly necessary to state that all the existing specimens of this class (and they are fairly numerous) do not belong to the Hsiian Te period. Indeed, it is unlikely that more than a very small percentage of them were made in this short reign. Whether the style survived the Ming dynasty is an open question; but it is safe to assume that it was largely used in the sixteenth century.
The discussion of this group of polychrome porcelain leads naturally to the vexed question of the introduction of enamel painting over the glaze. By the latter I mean the painting of designs on the finished white glaze in vitrifiable enamels, which were subsequently fixed in the gentle heat of the muffle kiln (lu)—couleurs de petit feu, as the French have named them. No help can be got from the phraseology of the Chinese, for they use wu ts’ai or wu se (lit. five colors) indifferently for all kinds of poly-chrome decoration, regardless of the number of colors involved or the mode of application. There is, however, no room for doubt that the delicate enamel painting, for which the reign of Ch’eng Hua (1465-1487) was celebrated, was executed with the brush over the fired glaze. It is inconceivable that the small, eggshell wine cups with peony flowers and a hen and chicken ” instinct with life and movement ” could have been limned by any other method.If this is the case, then what could the Chinese writers mean when they contrasted the wu ts’ai ornament of the Hsiian Te and Ch’eng Hua periods, but that the same process of painting was in use in both reigns ? The Ch’eng Hua colours were more artistic because they were thin and delicately graded, while the Hsiian Te wu ts’ai were too thickly applied. For this reason, if for no other, we may rightly infer that painting in on-glaze enamels was practiced in the Hsiian Te period, if indeed, if it had not been long in use. There is another and an intermediate method of polychrome decoration in which the low-fired enamels (de petit feu) are applied direct to the biscuit, as in the case of the demi-grand feu colors, but with the difference that they are fixed in the muffle kiln. This method was much employed on the late Ming and early Ch’ing porcelains, and it will be discussed later ; but it is mentioned here because there are several apparent examples of it in Hsiang’s Album, one of which is dated Hsiian Te. The example in question is a model of the celebrated Nanking pagoda, and it is described as wu ts’ai, the structure being white, the roofs green, the rails red, and the doors yellow, while the date is painted in blue. I have hesitated to assume that this is intended to represent an on-glaze painted piece, though there is much in the description to indicate such a conclusion ; but it is certainly either this or a member of the class under discussion, viz. decorated in enamels of the muffle kiln applied to the biscuit. the knowledge of vitrifiable enamels at this period to all who accept the evidence of Hsiang’s Album.Examples of Hsiian Te polychrome porcelain enumerated in the T’ao shuo included wine pots in the form of peaches, pomegranates, double gourds, a pair of mandarin ducks and geese ; washing dishes (for brushes) of ” gong-shaped outline,” with moulded fish and water-weeds, with sunflowers and with lizards ; and lamp brackets, “rain-lamps,” vessels for holding bird’s food, and erickct pots.
Specimens of on-glaze painted porcelain with the Hsiian Te mark are common enough, but I have not yet seen one which could be accepted without reserve. Perhaps the nearest to the period is a specimen in the Franks Collection, a box made of the lower part of a square vase which had been broken and cut down. It was fitted with a finely designed bronze cover in Japan, and it is strongly painted in underglaze blue and the usual green, yellow, red and purple on-glaze enamels. The mark is in a fine dark blue, and the porcelain has all the character of a Ming specimen.
There is, in the same collection, a dish of a different type, but with the Hsiian TS mark in Mohammedan blue and other evidences of Ming origin. The glaze is of a faintly greenish white and of considerable thickness and lustre, and the design consists of lotus scrolls in gold. Painting in gold in the Hsiian Te period is mentioned in the T’ao shuo in connection with the pots for holding the fighting crickets alluded to above
CH’ENG HUA / Chenghua(1465-1487)
Ch’eng Hua porcelain shares with that of the Hsiian Te period the honours of the Ming dynasty, and Chinese writers are divided on the relative merits of the two. Unfortunately, no material remains on which we might base a verdict of our own, but we may safely accept the summing up which the Po wu yao Ian, the premier authority on early Ming wares, gives as follows : ” In my opinion, the blue and white porcelain of the Ch’eng Hua period does not equal that of the Hsiian Te, while the polychrome of the Hsiian period does not equal that of the ‘ model Emperor’s reign. The reason is that the blue of the Hsiian ware was su-ni-p’o blue, whereas afterward it was all exhausted, and in the Ch’£ng Hua period only the ordinary blue was used. On the other hand, the poly- chrome (wu ts’ai) decoration on the Hsiian ware was deep and thick, heaped and piled, and consequently not very beautiful; while on the polychrome wares of the Ch’eng Hua period the colours used were thin and subdued, and gave the impression of a picture.” Elsewhere we read that the Hsiian Te porcelain was thick, the Ch’eng Hua thin, and that the blue of the Hsiian blue and white was pale, that of the Ch’Sng Hua dark; but on this latter point there are many differences of opinion, and among the wares made at the Imperial factory in the Yung Cheng period we are told that there were ” copies of Ch’eng Hua porcelain with designs pencilled in pale blue (tan ch’ing).”
The only types of Ch’eng Hua porcelain considered worthy of mention by Chinese writers are the polychrome, the blue and white, and the red monochrome, though doubtless the other methods of previous reigns were still used. Stress is laid on the excellence of the designs which were supplied by artists in the palace, and on the fine quality of the colors used, and an interesting list of patterns is given in the T’ao shuo, which includes the following 1. Stem-cups (pa pei), with high foot, flattened bowl, and spreading mouth ;decorated in colors with a grape-vine pattern.
” Among the highest class of Ch’eng Hua porcelain these are unsurpassed, and in workmanship they far excel the Hsiian Te cups.” Such is the verdict of the Po wu yao Ian, but they are only known to us by later imitations. A poor illustration of one of these is given in Hsiang’s Album,and we are told in the accompanying text that the glaze is fen pai, “white like rice powder,” while the decoration, a band of oblique vine clusters and tendrils, is merely described as wu ts’ai (poly-chrome), but it is obviously too slight to be executed by any other method than painting with enamels on the glaze. The price paid for this cup is stated as one hundred taels (or ounces) of silver.2. Chicken cups (chi kang), shaped like the flat-bottomed, steep- sided, and wide-mouthed fish bowls (kang), and painted in colours with a hen and chickens beneath a flowering plant. A valuable commentary on Ch’eng Hua porcelains is given by a late seventeenth-century writer in notes* appended to various odes (e.g. on a “chicken c u p ” and on a Chiin Chou vase). The writer is Kao Tan-jen, who also called himself Kao Chiang-ts’un, the name appended to a long dissertation on a Yuan dynasty silver wine cup, which now belongs to Sir Robert Biddulph and was figured in the Burlington Magazine. ” Ch’eng Hua wine cups,”he tells us, ” include a great variety of sorts. All are of clever workmanship and decoration, and are delicately coloured in dark and light shades. The porcelain is lustrous and clear, but strong. The chicken cups are painted with a ?nu tan peony, and below it. The author of the P’u shu fing chi (Memoirs of the Pavilion for Sunning Books), quoted in the T’ao shuo, loc. cit. and the red monochrome, though doubtless the other methods ofprevious reigns were still used. Stress is laid on the excellence of the designs which were supplied by artists in the palace, and on the fine quality of the colos used, and an interesting list of patterns is given in the T’ao shuo, which includes the following.
1. Stem-cups (pa pei), with high foot, flattened bowl, and spreading mouth ; decorated in colors with a grape-vine pattern.” Among the highest class of Ch’eng Hua porcelain these are unsurpassed, and in workmanship they far excel the Hsiian Te cups.” Such is the verdict of the Po wu yao Ian, but they are only known to us by later imitations. A poor illustration of one of these is given in Hsiang’s Album,and wc are told in the accompanying text that the glaze is fen pai, “white like rice powder,” while the decoration, a band of oblique vine clusters and tendrils, is merely described as wu ts’ai (poly-chrome), but it is obviously too slight to be executed by any other method than painting with enamels on the glaze. The price paid for this cup is stated as one hundred taels (or ounces) of silver.
2. Chicken cups (chi kang), shaped like the flat-bottomed, steep-sided, and wide-mouthed fish bowls (kang), and painted in colours with a hen and chickens beneath a flowering plant.
A valuable commentary on Ch’eng Hua porcelains is given by a late seventeenth-century writer in notes* appended to various odes (e.g. on a “chicken cup ” and on a Chiin Chou vase). The writer is Kao Tan-jen, who also called himself Kao Chiang-ts’un, the name appended to a long dissertation on a Yuan dynasty silver wine cup, which now belongs to Sir Robert Biddulph and was figured in the Burlington Magazine. ” Ch’eng Hua wine cups,”he tells us, ” include a great variety of sorts. All are of clever workmanship and decoration, and are delicately coloured in dark and light shades. The porcelain is lustrous and clear, but strong. The chicken cups are painted with a ?nu tan peony, and below it The author of the P’u shu fing chi (Memoirs of the Pavilion for Sunning Books), quoted in the T’ao shuo, loc. cit.a hen and chicken, which seem to live and move.” Another writer of the same period states that he frequented the fair at the Tz’u a hen and chicken, which seem to live and move.” Another writer of the same period states that he frequented the fair at the Tz’u temple in the capital, where porcelain bowls were exhibited, and rich men came to buy. For Wan Li porcelain the usual price was a few taels of silver; for Hsiian Te and Ch’eng Hua marked specimens two to five times that amount; but ” chicken cups ” could not be bought for less than a hundred taels, and yet those who had the means did not hesitate to buy, and porcelain realised higher prices than jade.
An illustration in Hsiang’s Album gives a poor idea of one of these porcelain gems, which is described as having the sides thin as a cicada’s wing, and so translucent that the fingernail could be seen through them. The design, a hen and chicken beside a cock’s- comb plant growing near a rock, is said to have been in the style of a celebrated Sung artist. The painting is in ” applied colours (fu si*), thick and thin,” and apparently yellow, green, aubergine and brown. Like that of the grape-vine cup, it is evidently in enamels on the glaze.
3. Ruby red bowls (pao shao wan) and cinnabar red dishes (chu sha p’an). These were, no doubt, the same as the ” precious stone red (pao shih hung) and cinnabar bowls red as the sun,” described in the chapter on Hsiian T§ porcelain. Kao Chiang- ts’un remarks on these that ” among the Ch’eng wares are chicken cups, ruby red bowls, and cinnabar dishes, very cleverly made, and fine, and more costly than Sung porcelain.”
4. Wine cups with figure subjects and lotuses.
5. ” Blue and white ” (ch’ing hua) wine cups, thin as paper.
6. Small cups with plants and insects (ts’ao ch’ung).
7. Shallow cups with the five sacrificial altar vessels (wu kung yang).
8. Small plates for chopsticks, painted in colors.
9. Incense boxes.
10. All manner of small jars.
All these varieties are mentioned in the Po wu yao Ian, which gives the place of honour to the grape-vine stem-cups. The only kind specifically described as blue and white is No. 5, and the inference is that the other types were usually polychrome.