Along for the Joy Read

In re­cent years, more books about an­tiques have been pub­lished. Some writ­ers pro­vide first- hand in­for­ma­tion about the his­tory of Bei­jing’s an­tique in­dus­try, while oth­ers serve as a guide to an­tique shops on old streets.

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Xia Edited by Mark Zuiderveld

An­tiques, an in­dus­try some­what mys­ti­fied by na­ture, has set a thresh­old for out­siders. Yet, an­tiques are of­ten wel­comed as a hobby. Schol­ars hunt for an­tiques, do re­search in the evo­lu­tion of the his­tory and char­ac­ters, study the devel­op­ment tra­jec­tory of art and gather ma­te­ri­als that add weight to their writ­ing. Of­fi­cials pur­chase glit­ter­ing an­tiques and jew­ellery to grace their houses. Pow­er­ful and aris­to­cratic fam­i­lies house an­tiques to show their sta­tus, or in­vest in pre­cious and ex­otic ob­jects as a place to show off their wealth. But an­tiques ap­peal to dif­fer­ent peo­ple for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

In re­cent years, a group of books about an­tiques has come to the fore. Some writ­ers pro­vide first-hand in­for­ma­tion about the his­tory or se­crets of the an­tique in­dus­try in Bei­jing, oth­ers serve as a guide to an­tique streets. Some high­light the his­tor­i­cal and artis­tic qual­i­ties of an­tiques based on their knowl­edge of his­tory, ge­og­ra­phy and an­tiques, while oth­ers write bi­ogra­phies for some masters by virtue of their ac­quain­tance. The love of an­tiques has made th­ese books pos­si­ble.

Jingcheng Guwan Hang

As a wiz­ard among col­lec­tors, Chen Chongyuan was born in a fam­ily of an­tiques. As early as age 10, he started to live and re­ceived his ed­u­ca­tion in Wen­guzhai, his un­cle’s an­tique shop on Li­ulichang Street. There he gained ac­cess to in­sid­ers, en­gaged in the an­tique busi­ness, and ac­quired knowl­edge of an­tiques and ap­praisal skills. In 1985, Chen re-en­tered the an­tiques in­dus­try in Bei­jing as a recorder. Through in-depth in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ex­ten­sive in­ter­views, he gar­nered abun­dant valu­able and less vis­i­ble well-known in­for­ma­tion from veter­ans of the cir­cle. All th­ese ma­te­ri­als were pub­lished into a book in 1990— Guwan shi­hua yu jian­shang (“his­tory and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of an­tiques”), which turned out to be a hit among an­ti­quar­ian en­thu­si­asts. The new edi­tion pub­lished by Bei­jing Pub­lish­ing Group was reti­tled Jingcheng guwan hang (“the an­tiques in­dus­try of Bei­jing”), giv­ing a fresh per­spec­tive to read­ers.

Jingcheng guwan hang pro­vides a de­tailed pic­ture of the life, des­tiny and the unique, in­trigu­ing char­ac­ter of an­tique traders of Old Bei­jing. The book also of­fers in­sights into the busi­ness re­al­ity, forms of trade, meth­ods of val­u­a­tion and an ac­count of the an­tiques in­dus­try of old Bei­jing,

as well as ap­praisal know-how and in­for­ma­tion about cal­lig­ra­phy and paint­ings tech­niques.

The book also chron­i­cles some lesser known trade prac­tices. For ex­am­ple, an­tique deal­ers can help other deal­ers sell ar­ti­cles. No mat­ter how costly the ar­ti­cle may be, and no mat­ter who came to buy, the an­tique can be taken away with no re­ceipt needed. With both sides be­ing hon­est, no cheat­ing oc­curred in this prac­tice for cen­turies, which ma­tured into a trade rule and en­abled the so called “Cloth­wrap­per Shop.” Such a prac­tice can be found in the book. Jingcheng guwan hang ex­ists as a unique pub­li­ca­tion de­pict­ing scenery of the an­tiques cir­cle in Old Bei­jing.

Li­ulichang Wenwu Ditu

A renowned street in Bei­jing, Li­ulichang Street is an icon of Old Bei­jing cul­ture. It had been a place where celebri­ties, royal fam­i­lies and their rel­a­tives hang­out and relics of the Qing Dy­nasty and the Repub­lic of China exit as well al­most al­most all time-hon­oured an­tique shops. In 2015, Bei­jing Pub­lish­ing Group pub­lished an­other book by Chen Chongyuan about the an­tiques of Bei­jing. The book, re­volv­ing around Li­ulichang Street, was named Li­ulichang wenwu ditu (“map of an­tiques in Li­ulichang Street”).

In this book, Chen ex­am­ines na­tional trea­sures and time-hon­oured shops, and tells sto­ries of how an­tiques, jew­ellery and jade were au­then­ti­cated, traded, re­pro­duced, and re­paired. With lively anec­dotes, the book gives read­ers more de­tailed knowl­edge about Bei­jing’s an­tique mar­ket. Li­ulichang wenwu ditu serves as a win­dow for an­tique novices to get an in­side look into the in­tri­ca­cies of the in­dus­try.

Taoci Chuanqi

In re­cent years, Dou Zhon­gru, an ex­pert in Chi­nese his­tory, an­tiques, arche­ol­ogy, col­lec­tion, world cul­ture, nat­u­ral her­itage and re­lated sub­jects, has done an­other amaz­ing thing. He aligned the ger­mi­na­tion, ma­tu­rity, fur­ther devel­op­ment and pros­per­ity of the an­cient ce­ram­ics in­dus­try with each pe­riod and dy­nasty, and com­piled this in­for­ma­tion into Taoci chuanqi (‘‘ leg­end of ce­ram­ics’’), a book pub­lished by Bei­jing Pub­lish­ing Group.

The book in­cludes 20 chap­ters, each telling of a sep­a­rate dy­nasty, in­clud­ing the Pre- Qin Pe­riod (2100– 221 BC), Tang (AD 618–907), Song (AD 960–1279), Yuan (1271–1368), Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dy­nas­ties. The book ex­plains how rare ce­ramic ar­ti­facts were pro­duced and spread through­out each pe­riod. Th­ese an­cient ar­ti­cles may have been ad­mired by aris­to­crats, cher­ished by schol­ars, or sold by spec­u­la­tors and got­ten lost. The au­thor gave read­ers the per­spec­tive of a “his­tory mu­seum,” telling the his­tory of each ar­ti­cle, de­tail­ing sto­ries of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and show­cas­ing a unique di­men­sion Chi­nese art his­tory.

Qishi Wang Shix­i­ang

Few have ri­valled Wang Shix­i­ang (1914– 2009, a Chi­nese an­tique ex­pert) when it comes to the in­flu­ence in the cir­cle of muse­ol­ogy and folk­lore. Any ob­ject au­then­ti­cated or col­lected by Wang is equal to qual­ity. Among his col­lec­tions, a bronze in­cense burner of the Xuande Pe­riod of the Ming Dy­nasty, guqin (a stringed plucked in­stru­ment), same fur­ni­ture and an­cient cal­lig­ra­phy works have been sold at record high prices on sev­eral auc­tions. His es­says, the­ses, trea­tises and po­etry have all rocked pub­li­ca­tion cir­cles. He con­trib­uted to the col­lec­tion and pro­tec­tion of Chi­nese cul­tural relics, still a topic among peo­ple.

Bei­jing Pub­lish­ing Group has pub­lished a book called Qishi Wang Shix­i­ang (“wiz­ard Wang Shix­i­ang”), writ­ten by bi­og­ra­pher Dou Zhon­gru, which of­fers a pic­ture of the life of the wiz­ard. Hun­dreds of anec­dotes de­tail the life of Wang. We can see the plea­sure that Wang gained from his wealth of cul­tural knowl­edge. A unique story, this work also re­mains an in­spi­ra­tion.

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