Porce­lain ar­ti­facts go on show in Shang­hai Mu­seum

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHANG KUN in Shang­hai

zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In 1986, re­searchers Feng Xian­ming and Geng Baochang ar­rived at a Christie’s auc­tion of Chi­nese porce­lain in Am­s­ter­dam with $30,000. Ac­cord­ing to in­struc­tions from the state ad­min­is­tra­tion of cul­tural relics, they were al­lowed to pay a max­i­mum of three times the start­ing bid for any piece of porce­lain.

But Feng and Geng re­turned to Bei­jing empty handed. They never ex­pected that the porce­lain wares, which were dis­cov­ered from the Gel­der­malsen shipwreck that oc­curred in 1752, would sell for more than $20 mil­lion, al­most 900 times the es­ti­mated price.

The trip to Am­s­ter­dam, how­ever, was not com­pletely in vain as it trig­gered the found­ing of China’s un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­search team in 1987. A few years later, some of those porce­lain pieces from the auc­tion ended up at the Palace Mu­seum in Bei­jing, thanks to a gen­er­ous do­na­tion by Hong Kong en­tre­pre­neur K. S. Lo.

To­day, ex­port porce­lain from China is gen­er­at­ing much in­ter­est at home and abroad. These ce­ramic wares may not be deemed as re­fined and valu­able as those pro­duced ex­clu­sively for im­pe­rial use, but they are noted for their role in con­nect­ing China with the rest of world through trade.

The ex­hi­bi­tion “Ming-Qing Ex­port Porce­lain from the Palace Mu­seum and the Shang­hai Mu­seum” is now on at Hall No.2 in the Shang­hai Mu­seum. The ex­hi­bi­tion, which runs till Jan­uary 4, 2016, show­cases 160 pieces of ex­port porce­lain with the old­est piece dat­ing back to the 14th cen­tury.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion shows a pic­ture of re­cent study and achieve­ments in this area,” said Shan Jix­i­ang, di­rec­tor of the Palace Mu­seum in Bei­jing, who went on to praise Shang­hai Mu­seum’s col­lec­tion of ex­port porce­lain as “unique” and be­ing “the fore­front of China, both in the quan­tity and qual­ity”.

Ac­cord­ing to Lu Minghua, head of the porce­lain depart­ment at Shang­hai Mu­seum, porce­lain pro­duc­tion had be­gun in China as early as the 7th cen­tury and kilns could be found scat­tered all over the coastal Fu­jian province by the 10th cen­tury. The mass ex­port of porce­lain later started in the 15th cen­tury, when busi­ness­men took it to South­east Asia and the Mid­dle East.

When new ship­ping routes were de­vel­oped, Europe be­came the new mar­ket for China’s fine porce­lain. By that time, the city of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province had be­come China’s porce­lain cap­i­tal.

“Most of the pieces on show were made in Jingdezhen, with a few oth­ers from Zhangzhou and Dehua of Fu­jian province,” Lu told the media.

Ex­port porce­lain has dis­tinc­tive el­e­ments. A blue-and­white flask, for ex­am­ple, is con­sid­ered to be of Is­lamic style. These pieces are known as baoyue ping, or moon em­brac­ing jars, and were tai­lor-made for clients in the Mid­dle East, Lu said. Such pieces can usu­ally be found in mu­se­ums in Tur­key, Iran and In­done­sia.

Also among the ex­hibits are tankards and mugs for beer drink­ing, a cruet for stor­ing oil and vine­gar, as well as ar­mo­rial porce­lain dec­o­rated with in­signias of Euro­pean aris­to­crats, mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions and cities.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Visi­tors chat as they view the porce­lain ex­hibits in Shang­hai Mu­seum.

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