The Sung Ceramic History Collections


Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA


Private Limited E.Book In CD-Rom Edition

Special for Senior Collectors And Historian

Copyright @ 2014

Sung Dragon Pklate found West Java

(Collection Dr Iwan)



Sung Pottery and Porcelain

The statement that during the Sung period “ the reins of government were more accurely held over a unified , though diminished China”, is false for during this time there was internal confklict , intrigue and constant threats from the north which finally ended in conquest and flight.

General Chao KUang-yin (called Tai-tsu) attacked the Khitan Tartars in the Northeast and they reacted by taking some territory while to the Northwest the kingdom of Hsia fought both sides ,

The Ch’ing Pi Ts’ang ( 1595)


The Po W’u Yao Lan ( 1621-1627 )

Tha T’ao Shuo ( 1774) which incorporates given the former works and others.

The Cheng-te’ C’en T’ao Lu(1815) which also covers much of the same ground , and which has to do with the famous potteries at Ching-te’ Che’ng in the Ch’ang nan district east of Po Yang Lake in Kiangsi province , given its same by Ching Te’ ( 1004-1007) and which in the 19th century was commanded by the Emperor Yung Che’ng to make reproductions of Sung wares for which purpose specimens were down from the Imperial Palace Collections.


Another alliance was made between the Mongols and the Chinese to fight the Chins and the promise was mde that Honan would remain to the Chinese but a quarrel led to the Mongolian conquet south until the last Sung emperor cast himself into the sea in despair and Kublai Khan became emperor of all China and musch more in1280

(Warren E.Cox,1970)





Ching Pa’i ware

Ch’ing-pai Ware


Ch’ing-pai (bluish-white)—also called ying ch’ing (shadow blue)—refers to a type of popular early porcelain. It was created in the late tenth century from a fine white paste covered with a thin, lustrous glaze that ranged in color between light blue and white.

First made at Ch’ing-te-chen in Kiangsi province, it was eventually manufactured at several southeastern kiln sites in Kiangsi, Chekiang, Hunan, Hupeh, Fukien, and Kwangtung provinces.Ch’ing-pai porcelain led to the introduction of blue-and-white, and from the tenth century on Ch’ing-te-chen would remain the center of porcelain production for China and much of the world.

Ch’ing-pai wares were immensely popular from Northern Sung (960-1127) through the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368). Objects ranged from crudely fashioned grave goods to exquisite eating utensils.

The highly plastic clay body allowed the creation of light, thin walled vessels with complex shapes that often incorporated molded, carved, and appliqué décor. The cool, bluish tint is accounted for in part by the reducing atmosphere given by the fuel, a locally abundant pine tree. While the new and exquisite shapes, with their subtle, pale-blue glazes were appreciated throughout China’s middle and upper classes and in several foreign markets,ch’ing-pai was not greatly revered at court. Be this as it may, ch’ing-pai wares have been excavated from numerous tombs and kiln sites throughout China, the central plains, Inner Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.





Wine Cup and Stand

Small Bowl

Wine Ewer and Basin








Sung Dynasty Ceramics

Chinese ceramics of the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) constitute perhaps the foremost expression of ceramic art, not only in China but in all the world. During the Sung period, a unity of the essential components fundamental to the art: vessel shape, potting techniques, glaze, decoration, firing processes, and aesthetic theory were all combined in a high standard of excellence.

In general, the shapes of Sung dynasty are simple and sedate by comparison to what preceded them and what was to follow. Likewise, the glazes tend to be monochromatic and subtle, a fluid, integral part of the form of the vessel they cover, with a depth of color and texture that invites the spectator to both touch and contemplate.

Sung aesthetic sophistication was matched by an incredible inventiveness, which led to a variety of classic wares, usually associated with a specific region of China. These included the court-patronized Lung-ch’uan celadons, Kuan and Ju porcelains, Ting ware, Northern celadons, as well as the more pedestrian Tz’u-chou ware, Ch’ing-pai ware, and the compelling varieties of Chün and Chien stoneware. Several of these regional ceramic wares were so valued during their day that they were used as tribute and yearly taxes to the imperial court. In terms of technical expertise, inventiveness, and aesthetic perfection of glaze and shape, the Sung period stands unrivaled for the quality of its ceramic ware.





Pear-shaped Bottle


Jar and Cover




Sung Dynasty Tea Bowls

Also called Jian Tenomko

11th-13th centuries

From the tenth through thirteenth centuries, the demand for brownish-black glazed tea bowls increased tremendously as Fujianese tea and tea drinking customs spread throughout Chinese society. It is interesting to note that the major tea producing provinces of Fujian and Kiangsi each had important kiln districts specializing in the production of black ware.

The introduction of Fujianese tea to the Northern Sung court (960-1127) brought with it a taste for the rich, lustrous, black-glazed stonewares from the Chien kilns. This ware was distinctive for its glaze effects known as “hare’s-fur” and “oil-spot” that occurred naturally during firing. The Chi-chou kilns in Kiangsi were especially known for their tea bowls which featured a variety of stenciled, splashed, brushed, and resist techniques in their innovative glazes. Northern kilns including Ting and Tz’u-chou also produced black ware tea bowls for a large audience.



Tea Bowl

Tea Bowl

Tea Bowl




Chün Ware
11th-15th centuries

Chün ware was produced during Sung (960 – 1279) at Yu-hsien country in Honan province. The thick, velvety glaze appears in light blue, lavender blue, light green and blue with purple splashes. The key ingredient in Chün glaze is copper oxide fired in a reduction kiln. Most Chün shapes are simple and self-contained. Their aesthetic appeal is rooted in their rich, deep, opalescent glazes.

These dark bodied stonewares were produced at several kiln complexes in Honan province including Lin-ju and the characters of their bodies and glazes vary considerably. The best early examples of Chün have fine-grained, light grey bodies with graceful shapes and delicate blue glazes. By late Northern Sung and onward, splashes of crimson or purple color were deliberately induced with the addition of copper-rich compounds to the glaze. While the Northern Sung emperor Hui Tsung (r. 1100-25) ordered vast amounts of this attractive stoneware, it was not an official court ware.






Lidded Jar


Narcissus Bowl






Kuan Ware
12th-13th centuries

The Kuan kilns were operated by the Sung imperial court in present day Kaifeng and Hangchou. At the beginning, their limited output was intended exclusively for the court. With its high iron content, Kuan clay is dark while its thick translucent glaze is a subtle pale blue-gray. A distinguishing feature of this refined ware is the crackle pattern of its glaze, which was purposely induced during the cooling process. The crackled glazes undoubtedly appealed to the refined antiquarian taste of the scholar class as well as the Sung court. Kuan ware was grouped by later connoisseurs as one of the five so-called “official court wares” of the Sung dynasty. Like Lung-ch’uan celadon, Kuan ware was greatly admired by the Ch’ing court during the eighteenth century and it was imitated in porcelain at the imperial workshops at Ching-te-chen.





Celadon Vase, one of a pair







Tz’u-chou Type Ceramics

Tz’u-chou is a term used to classify a wide range of northern Chinese stonewares made principally in Hopeh, Honan, Shansi, and Shantung provinces between the Sung and Ming dynasties (960-1644). Tz’u-chou arose from the tradition of T’ang dynasty (618-906) white wares, but coarse local clays required the use of a creamy white slip to mask the dark color of the buff-grey body. This white slip is the distinguishing characteristic of Tz’u-chou ceramics which consisted primarily of inexpensive wares for everyday use.

Most examples make some use of black-and-white decoration featuring floral designs. Using the white surface as a ground distinct from both the darker clay body and exterior clear glaze, Tz’u-chou potters developed an astonishing variety of decorative techniques, over twenty in all. Some basic methods included black-and-brown painting on white slip, white or black slip with deeply carved decoration that exposed the clay body (cut-glaze technique), black slip sgraffiato designs on white slip, incised and stamped decoration, green lead glaze, and the earliest use of enamel overglaze decoration.

The success and longevity of Tz’u-chou wares can be attributed to their middle class popularity and regional economic base. Sturdily potted and utilitarian, they did not depend heavily upon court patronage or export revenues like other Chinese ceramic wares.






Meiping Bottle

Ovoid Bottle






more info look CD The Yuan Ceramic History Collections

The Yuan (元)government

inherited the ‘maritime custom system’,

so the individual state could trade with the custom officers at the major ports of China.
At the beginning of the Ming
(明) Dynasty,

the first emperor Hongwudi (洪武帝) resumed the tributary system.

Then so-called ’San-fo-chi’ appeared to the Ming court.

This San-fo-chi came from Palembang.

At that time Palembang was a vassal state of Java (the Majapahit kingdom) and Java killed the envoy from the Ming court at Palembang.

Hongwudi realized that he was cheated by the rulers of Palembang and accepted the situation.This ‘faked San-fo-chi

The end

Copyright @ 2014

Strangely the art of Sung China is not martial but rather poetic and transparential , not lacking in strength of the willow which bends before the storm that breaks the oaks ; having the strength of the soil rather than that of the broad –swords.

It was so close to nature that it did not seem so much to copy nature as to be a very part of it. This art was not so much due to any one group r to patronage as it was lived by almoy everyone.

I think that critics often try to explain a great flowering of art by some glibly caught phse of history which the artist of the day , perhaps living more apart than might be supposed , had never heard of.

A tree snows no nterest if one of its braches is broken off ; it goes right on growing and eventually the open space fills in. So it that war diplay does not affect people

Strangely the art of Sung China is not martial but other poetic and transcendental , not lacking in strenght but with the strength of the willow which bends before the storm that breaks the oaks ; having the strength of the soil rather than that of the broad swords .

It was so close to nature that it did not seem so much to copy nature so to be a very part of it. This art wa not so much due to a group or to patronage as it was lived by almost everyone.

I think that critics often try to explain a great flowering of the art by some glibly caught phase of history which the artists of the day , perhaps living more apart than might be supposed had never heard of.

A tree shows no interest if one of its branches is broken off; it goes right on growing and eventually the open space fill in. So it is thatwar simply does not affect some people.

Another very vital fact must understood before one can understand Sung art and that is theFar Easterner before be a though fighter and at the same time a sensitive soul.

The good fencer hols his foil cupped in his hand gently as though he were holding a third , not to let it ger away but not tocrush it. An old Chinese saying goes, “ He who knows the cherry blossom bough can best handle the sword”

We man of America suffer more than any others from masculine-comples; we feel that a real man should enjoy baseball , whisky and poker rather than fencing , wine and art.

A real man is not supposedto take his women too seriously at least in talk with his companions . Before Worls war I it was considered sissy to wear a wrist watch or carry a cane until expedience and necessity dixtated the use of both.

Yhis manly wager seems xchildish to the Chinese for the Chinese man knows his own qualities of courage and in his country life is held cheaply. Thus it was possible for many artists in the troubles Sung tme to think philosophies and spend time searching for little beauties of nature without any idea of having to prove themselves worthy or masculine.

More info you can read and look at the chronological info at the next page.

(Warren E.Cox , 1970)

Celadon plate illustration


The Study Of Sung Shape





Song Porcelain

The Song Dynasty saw the introduction of many new folk kilns ceramics form and Imperial Court’s involvement in the production of ceramics for the palace use.

Song porcelain ware is an epitome of aesthetic perfection.  Generations of potters have drawn and will continue to draw inspirations from Song ceramics creations.  The elegance of the shape of the vessels achieved was superb.  The aesthetic beauty of jade -like celadon glaze of ru/guan/longquan reached unsurpassed perfection and delicacy.  The icy bluish beauty Qingbai glaze has enchanted generations of porcelain collectors.  The curved/impressed decorations of Ding and Yaozhou wares reigned supreme.

The ingenuity and creativity of the Cizhou and Jizhou potters was also amazing.  They were able to overcome the limitations of poor quality raw material for porcelain making and came out with innovative and aesthetically wonderful products.  The use of white slip to whiten the body and further using it as a decorative element for sgraffiato design was brilliant.  Building on the foundation of the celadon underglaze iron-pigment brown/black decoration of the earlier era, the cizhou kilns fully developed the underglaze iron-pigment motif on white ground.  It became a main-stream product until it was overtaken by blue and white in the Ming dynasty and marginalised in the Qing Dynasty.   The jizhou potters were able to work on a dark and a lighter colour glaze to achieve great products such as the tortoise’s shell/tiger’s fur effect and paper cut motifs.

The potential of the copper oxide was finally realised in the dazzling beauty of rainbow-like purplish/red splashes on blue ground of Jun wares.  The ever inexhaustible potential of iron-pigment for amazing decorative effect was proudly displayed in the form of the temmoku hares’ fur and oil spots.

It was also a period of commercial liberalisation and huge growth in overseas trade which was encouraged by the imperial court as a source of substantial tax revenue.  An important development was the large number of kilns that were set up in the coastal region in Guangdong and Fujian to produce porcelains for the Southeast Asia market.  The coastal kilns made use of their proximity to the port, Guangdong Guangzhou during the Tan/Song period and Fujian Quanzhou during the Southern Song period to produce lower end copies of Yue, Longquan celadon, Jingdezhen Qingbai and Jian temmoku wares to meet overseas demand. For more on Guangdong and Fujian trade ceramics, please read below:

Tang/Song Guangdong trade ceramics

Song/Yuan Fujian trade ceramics

Celadon cup

Illustration source


Song Jun, Ru and guan wares

In the area of ceramics production, an important development was the setting up of official kilns to produce ceramics for the Imperial palace.  During the Northern Song period, Jun and Ru wares , both a form of celadon, were produced.

The Jun kilns at Baguadong (°ËØÔ¶´£©and Juntai £¨¾ų̂£©were located in Yu county£¨ÓíÏØ£© in Henan.  The Jun kiln used iron and copper oxides to fire an opacified bluish glaze with red or purplish splashes.  Vessels included flower pots, washers, dishes, censor, bowls, zun and etc.  Some of the flower pots/stands  have number (1-10) carved on their base.  It has been established that the number is an indication of the size.  Some vessels also have inscription such as fenghua (·î»ª£©¡¡and sheng fu¡¡£¨Ê¡·û£©.  [Guan Jun is still a controversial subject with some experts questioning the Northern Song attribution.]

Folk kilns in Henan also produced Jun wares but the number of Song/Jin wares excavated were few.  The best Jun from the folk kiln were produced at Liu Jiamen (Áõ¼ÒÃÅÒ¤£©¡£

Ru wares were produced in Baofeng Qingliangsi £¨±¦·áÇåÁ¹Ë£©¡¡in Henan. They usually have a light sky-blue colour with tiny spur marks on the outer base. Vessel forms consisted of mainly dishes, washers, bowls and some archaic zun vase, lian-form censers and vases. Some vessels also have the inscription fenghua¡¡£¨·î»ª£©.

During the Southern Song Period, two officially operated kilns were built at Xiuneisi and Jiaotanxia with the former in operation first. They consisted of jade-like thick which powdered bluish or yellowish colour tone.  They have iron black body with majority having crackled glaze.  The best have very thick multi-layered glaze and biscuit think body.


For more on the guanwares, please read : Song Guan Wares .


Yue/Longquan greenware (celadon)

During the Northern Song period, Yue ware was still an important greenware. The products of this period is characterised by fine incised motifs covering floral, bird, phoenix, dragon and human motif. A form of more deeply curved combined with incised style of decoration was introduced during the Mid Northern Song Period and continued to be used during the rest of the Northern Song Period.  Yue greenwares essential ceased by early Southern Song period.

Longquan of the Northern Song essentially copied the Yue curved/combed motifs.  Longquan developed its famous powder¡¡green £Û·ÛÇà£Ýnd mei zi qing (plum green) [÷×ÓÇà£Ýglaze towards the end of Southern Song period.  The ware is characterised by multi-layered glaze application with jade like quality. It is arguably the greatest achievement of all green glaze wares.   Longquan potters also produced some guan-type black body wares during the late southern Song period.

The curved/combed motifs longquan motif was widely adopted by the Fujian kilns during the late Northern Song/early Southern Song period.  It was an important export item and was termed Tongan type greenware or Juko (shuko seiji) £ÛÖé¹âÇà´É£Ýgreenware in Japan. Shuko was a Japanese monk who was known for his preference for Tongan type greenware for tea ceremony.

For more on Longquan celadon, please read: Longquan Celadon

For more on Longquan influenced Fujian greenware, please read: Fujian Trade Ceramics

Yaozhou Greenware (Ò«ÖÞÒ¤£©

Yaozhou established itself as the greatest Northern Celadon (greenware) production centre during the Northern Song Period.  The most famous was the Huangbao £¨»Æ±¤£©site at Tongchuan Shanxi (Í­´¨¡¡ÉÂÎ÷£© . But the kiln sites included Chenluzhen¡¡³Â¯Õò£©, Lidipo £¨Á¢µØÆ£©and Shangdian¡¡£¨Éϵ꣩.  Yaozhou greenware was famous for the curved motif with strong 3 dimensional visual effect.  An interesting characteristic of Yaozhou wares is the ginger-yellow scotched marks on the base and at the footring. After Mid Northern Song, elaborate impressed motifs were introduced and gradually became the more dorminent products.  The impressed motifs were varied and consisted of flowers, dragon, phoenix, fish, makara, flying fairies, infants and etc.  Yaozhou greenware continued to be produced during the Jin period and gradually ceased during the Yuan period.  During the Jin period, an important Yue bai £ÛÔ°ףÝ(moon-white) glaze was introduced.

Yaozhou type greenwares were also produced in Henan kilns such as those in  Linru £¨ÁÙÈ꣩£¬Xinan Cheng Guan ((а²³Ç¹ØÒ¤£©¡¡and Baofeng¡¡£¨±¦·á£©.  They are very similar to the Yaozhou production but are generally of poorer quality.

For more on Yaozhou greenware, please read: Yaozhou Celadon


Ding ware (¶¨Ò¤£©

Ding kiln was located in Jiancicun (½§´Å´å£©¡¡in Quyang county¡¡£¨ÇúÑôÏØ£©.  The kiln started production during the Tang period and achieved great fame during the Northern Song and Jin period for its ivory white glaze and finely curved and later even more famous impressed motifs. It was at one point an important tribute ware to the Imperial court during the Northern Song period.

One of the most important contributions of the Ding potters was the invention of the inverted firing Method.  It was subsequently adopted by many kilns including Jingdezhen.¡¡This method enabled more pieces to be fired in the kiln.  It however required the removal of glaze at the rim.

Important Ding type white wares were made in Pingding (ƽ¶¨£©and Jiexiu£¨½éÐÝ£©in shanxi £¨É½Î÷£©¡¡province.

For more on Ding ware, please read: Ding ware

Qingbai (Yingqing) ware

Qingbai meaning bluish white ware, was invented in Jingdezhen during the Northern Song period.  The best Qingbai wares were produced in Hutian kilns (ºþÌïÒ¤£©¡¡near Jingdezhen. The curved motif on Northern Qingbai wares was excellent.  The pooling of the bluish glaze in curved area of the motif enhance and bring out the profile of the motif nicely.  Impressed motifs were popular during the Southern Song and Yuan Period.  The glaze became more whitish during Southern Song and gradually became more opaque¡¡especially in the Yuan Dynasty.

Qingbai wares in British Museum

Qingbai was an enormously popular product and were produced in numerous kilns in Jiangxi in areas around Jingdezhen, Nanfeng and Jizhou and also provinces such as Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong.

Qingbai wares were exported overseas in large volume during the Song/Yuan period.

For more on Qingbai ware, please read: Qingbai (Yingqing) wares


Cizhou ware

Cizhou kilns are located in Guantai £¨Ò‹Ì¨£©and Pengcheng £¨Åí³Ç£©area in Hebei.  Its main products consisted of whiteware, blackware and wares with underglaze iron black/brown decoration on white ground.  The iron pigment painted decoration first appeared in late 3 Kingdom period and some rare examples were made by the Yue kilns.   But it was only during the Song period that it was popularised by the cizhou and cizhou type kilns and was produced even to this day.  The white glaze was able to show off the iron brown decoration distinctively and attractively.

Other famous  decorative types included incised/curved and sgraffito motif.¡¡¡¡

There are numerous other kilns located in Hebei, Henan (some famous ones such as Dangyangyu kiln [ÐÞÎäµ±ÑôÓøÒ¤]£¬Hebiji kiln [ÌÀÒõº×±Ú¼¯Ò¤]£¬pa chu kiln [ÓíÏØ°Ç´åÒ¤]£¬Dengfeng kiln [µÇ·âÒ¤]£©, Shanxi yaozhou kiln¡¡(Ò«ÖÞÒ¤£©, Ningxia Lingwu kiln (ÁéÎäÒ¤£©,Inner Mongolia Chifeng kiln (³à·åÒ¤£©£¬ Shanxi Jie xiu and ping ding kiln (½éÐÝÒ¤£¬Æ½¶¨Ò¤£©, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangxi jizhou kiln£¨¼ªÖÞÒ¤£©and Guandong which produced similar wares.  There are definitely some local stylistic decorative differences and also in terms of shape/form and glaze and paste  appearance.  Yet one can still discern that they are unmistakably cizhou in character especially in terms of the decorative techniques.  Hence, they are widely termed as cizhou type wares.

Dangyangyu kiln (ÐÞÎäµ±ÑôÓøÒ¤)in Henan also produced a famous marbled ware. It is also termed wood grain pattern, pheasant’s wing pattern or feather pattern.  Other Henan kilns producing such product included Qingliangsi in Baofeng £¨±¦·áÇåÁ¹Ë£©and Chengguan in Xinan(а²³Ç¹Ø£©

For more on Cizhou ware, please read: Cizhou wares

Overglaze enamelled Wares

The overglaze enamelled red, green and yellow motif on white glaze ware was an important new decorative type introduced during the Song period.  Most extant pieces were from the Hebei cizhou, Henan pacun (°Ç´åÒ¤£© and Shanxi Changzhi kiln £¨³¤ÖÎÒ¤£©and shandong zibo (×Ͳ©Ò¤£©.  The decoration was drawn on the high fired white glaze vessel.  Upon completion, it went through a second low firing of about 800 degree centigrade to adhere the enamels to the white glaze surface.  The vessels consisted of mainly bowls, dishes and human figurines.  In fact, black enamel was used for the eye brow and eyes of figurines from pacun kiln.

There were further development of overglaze enamelled wares during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty and subsequent became the widely known Ming/Qing wucai .

Qingbai (Yingqing) Wares

Qingbai wares were first produced during the Northern Song period.  A Northern Song official Peng Ruli.(彭汝砺)in his poem “(屯田)Sending off Xu on his Garrison mission” in Northern Song 2nd year of Zhiping (治平) (A.D. 1065) mentioned that Fuliang (where Jingdezhen was situated) made porcelain  with colour like jade (浮梁巧烧瓷,颜色比琼玖). Jiang Qi’s (蒋祈) work Tao Ji ()of Southern Song period also commented that the consumers  praised the Jingdezhen wares as Rao Yu, that is jade from Raozhou.  As it has a light bluish colour tone, the term Qingbai (ie bluish white) was used to describe such wares.  The term could be found in Song texts. The term yingqing (shadow blue) was coined during the Qing dynasty to describe this same category of wares.

Qingbai as compared with Tang/Song white  wares has the following distinct differences: the glaze is more fluid with bluish tone where the glaze accumulated and a more whitish tone if it is thin.  The glaze is more transparent with a greater degree of lustre.

The colourant of the qingbai glaze is the iron oxide in the raw materials used to make the glaze.  The glaze composition is also high in calcium oxide which enable a bluish tinge to develop when fired under reduction atmosphere. The glaze has a light yellowish tone if not properly reduced during reduction firing.

It is generally believed that Hutian was the first to produce them.  However, recent excavation revealed that Fanchang (繁昌) in Anhui (安徽) may have produced them even earlier. The popularity of Qingbai was enormous as witnessed by the production in numerous kilns in Jiangxi with areas around Jindezhen, Nanfeng and Jizhou being the key areas.  Due ot their popularity, they were also produced in other provinces, the more notable provinces were Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong. There was also huge overseas demand with physcial traces of such wares in Japan, Southeast Asia and even found their way to West Asia and middle East region.


Northern Song Period

Based on archaeological findings, Jingdezhen started porcelain production during the 5 Dynasties period. The kiln sites were located in the Suburbs of the city of Jingdezhen (important sites include Hutian (湖田), Yangmeiting (杨梅亭) and Huangnitou (黄泥)) and in the South River area  Xianghu (湘湖) and  Baihuwan (白虎湾).  During this period, the kilns produced mainly Yue type celadon and white wares.   Products consisted of mainly bowls and dishes and ewers. During firing, the bowls and dishes were stacked using clay spurs as separators.

The kilns switched to production of white and Qingbai wares during the Northern Song period.  The early Northern Song wares were fired on spurs and spurs marks could be found on the lip of the foot.  Professor Liu Xinyuan of Jingdezhen Museum of Ceramic History,  in an article written in the magazine wen wu in 1980 noted that among the deposits of sherds in Hutian kiln sites of early Northern Song, the glaze in most still showed yellowish tinge.

Only from the middle Northern Song period onward (2nd quarter of 11th century onward) that the colour became a jade like light bluish tinge.  The most distinctive features is best illustrated in the bowls.  It has taller foot and a smaller footring diameter.  The base is thick and support the weight of the vessel when placed on a disc during firing.  The wall of the bowls were thin.  They were trimmed on a turning wheel after throwing on the potter’s wheel.  They were either plain or decorated with lightly carved/incised floral motif.  A distinctive feature of the earlier pieces were the short dots left by a combing tool.


The lightly carved floral motif and the distinctive short combed dots.  It has the typical tall foot.This bowl was recovered from a Northern Song wreck in Indonesia



A bowl with lotus-like petals.  The potting is thin and the from elegant.  It usually comes in a set with varying sizes.

There are also greater variety of vessels including bowls, dishes, ewers/warmers, tea cups/stands, censers, pillows, cover boxes, chess boxes and all sorts of figurines.


Ewer with the bowl was mainly produced during the Mid to late Northern Song period.  The bowl is filled with hot water which served to warm the wine in the ewer.



Late Northern Song cup with stand.  The ewer could be dated slightly later to early Southern Song


Southern Song Period

There were further development during the 12th Century (late Northern Song to Mid Song period).  There was effective control of the kiln reduction firing atmosphere.  A larger number of the wares showed a good bluish green and have a jade like quality.  There were more varied carved/incised decorations including chrysanthemums, lotus, waves, infants among foliage, fish and etc.  As compared with the carving of the earlier period, it is sharper and the cut deeper.


Late Song/Early Song bowl.  The carving is more elaborate and deeply cut.  As compared with the earlier period, the foot is also shorter. It was fired sitting a clay disc on the outer base.  A brown patch is usually visible as a result.



Early Southern Song Qingbai bowl with carved waves and lotus motif.  It is more shallow and a popular form of the Southern Song period

The Nanhai shipwreck dated to the early southern Song period also carried certain quantity of Jingdezhen fine qingbai wares.  The bowls and dishes are thinly potted  with  forms inspired by silver wares.

More examples of Southern Song Qingbai are shown below.

Early Southern Song meiping with carved floral motif



Southern Song dish with impressed floral motif



Late Northern/Early Southern Song cover box with the factory mark

The inverted firing in saggar was introduced during the the later part of 12th century. As a result, the mouth rim was left unglazed. This method economised and maximised the usage of kiln space.  Besides the unglazed mouth rim, the foot of the bowls and dishes also became short.  From the production point of view, it is inevitable as it enabled more vessels to be placed in the saggars.  The decorative motifs of the bowls/dishes were predominantly impressed.


Sherds of bowls and dishes with unglazed rim


Southern Song dish with impressed fish and lotus motif

The glaze from Northern Song/early Southern Song phase is more transparent.  It is is clearer with sparsely spaced bigger bubbles.  Those dated to later Song/early Yuan phase is less transparent in comparison. Under magnifying glass, the glaze shows many small bubbles.


Yuan Period

During the early Yuan period, the inverted method of firing was still in use.  However, the quality of the products was inferior to those of the Southern Song period. The Yuan period especially from 14th century onward is characterised by vessels which are more thickly potted.

A new glaze with reduced glaze ash proportion of 10% as compared with about 30% in Yingqing glaze was introduced. This type of lime akali glaze has a higher viscosity.  Hence, the glaze application can be thicker. The reduction in the fluxing agents also resulted in more un-melted quartz particles and some fine silica in the glaze stone remain un-dissolved. Hence, they cause scattering of light and the glaze looks opaque and matted with a softer white or white/light bluish colour tone. The term luan bai (卵白) meaning goose egg white was used to describe such colour tone.  Some quantity of luan bai glaze wares were found in the Sinan wreck dated to A.D 1323. The bowls and plates with the foot sitting on the disc.    In the earlier period, it would be technically infeasible to do so.  The lime glaze composition with its high viscosity would could an overflow of the glaze on the edge of the disc  and cause the disc to stick to the vessels upon cooling.  With the new lime akali glaze, the viscosity is lower and overflow of the glaze is less of a problem that could be contained.

During the early Yuan period (probably till about first quarter of 14th century), Qingbai glaze was still the more common glaze formula used on vessels.  After that,  Luan bai glaze became more popular.  It was commonly applied on bowls and dishes.  Due to the thick and more opaque glaze, the moulded motif inside the vessels is usually not clear and details blurred by the glaze. The more transparent Qingbai glaze was still available, but found more on vases and jars with impressed/carved motifs.   It’s  greater clarity enabled the details of the motif to show through.


Yuan Qingbai bowl with carved duck and reeds motif.  The more sketchily carved lotus petals  on the external wall is typical of the Yuan period


Early Yuan Yuhuchun vase with carved dragon motif


Vessels such as vases, ewers and jars/jarlets were made using parts that were formed by moulding. The body is usually decorated with moulded motif.  The use iron-brown splashes was popular on vessels for the overseas market.  The decorative element of brown splashes appeared to have been introduced as early as Northern Song period.  They were found on celadon wares produced in Guangzhou Xicun kiln.  The popularity persisted in the overseas .  This decorative form could also be found on Yuan longquan celadon wares.

Vases formed by moulded parts. Such vessels are usually more crude and intended as burial items

Yuan qingbai wares were particularly popular in the Japanese and Southeast Asia market.  There were many interesting vessels form such as vases with pedestal, various form of  flattened, gourd or pear-shaped ewere with moulded decoration.  Trails of beaded decoration were also found on some form of  jarlets.  Such forms were rarely found in the domestic market.  In the Sinan shipwreck dated about A.D 1325, a substantial quantity of the above mentioned types of qingbai wares were salvaged.

Yuan Qingbai wares found in the Sinan wreck

Many Yuan qingbai wares have also been excavated in the Philippines and Indonesia.  Below few examples were found in Indonesia.


Yuan Qingbai Gourd shaped ewer with a lizard like handle



This gourd shaped ewer with iron brown splashes was also formed by moulded parts. A popular items mainly manufactured for the overseas market.



Yuan Qingbai moon-shaped ewer with moulded motif



Yuan qingbai glaze ewer with elaborate impressed and moulded motif



A beautiful Yuan Qingbai lion shaped water vessel

Interesting Yuan Qingbai  vessel modeled in the form of boat with people



Interesting Yuan Qingbai  cover box with applique decoration of human on horse and lotus



A typical Shufu Luanbai glaze bowl with thick and more opaque glaze

The Sinan wreck also carried small quantity of qingbai glaze saucers with iron-brown painted motif. There was also an example of incised motif covered by a splash of copper red.  This early experimentation with iron-brown painted motif did not gain much popularity.  But the experience and skill gained were not in vain.  Subsequent change of medium to cobalt blue and copper red proved to be immensely popular.

Yuan Qingbai dish with iron-brown painted motif


Yuan Qingbai dish with incised motif covered by splash of copper red


Qingbai wares from Guandong and Fujian

During the Northern Song period, Guangzhou was the main port for export of Chinese goods to overseas markets.  Many kilns in Chaozhou and Guangzhou regions were in operation during this period.  A significant quantity of the celadon and white/qingbai wares produced were targeted at the overseas clientele.  During the Southern Song period, Hangzhou became the capital of the regime.  Quanzhou in Fujian became the most important gateway for the maritime trade of the the Southern Song/Yuan period.  During this period, many kilns sprung up in the Fujian coastal region.  Again, the porcelain produced were mainly intended for the overseas market.



Song Qingbai dishes with impressed motif from a Fujian kiln



Yuan Qingbai bowl with impressed floral motif. Similar bowls were produced in Fujian Putian kiln




Northern Song Qingbai jar with carved lotus petals.  A product of Chaozhou kiln



Qingbai cover box. Such boxes were found in kilns in Fujian Nanan and also Chaozhou.  Dated to Late Northern/early Southern Song period



Qingbai ewers dated to Early Southern Song period from the Jepara shipwreck.



Fujian Dehua Qingbai wares.  They are dated to late Northern Song/early Southern Song period based  archeological and shipwreck findings. The ewer was salvaged from the Jepara shipwreck.  Qingbai wares from Dehua tends to have a very light bluish tone.  Hence, it is sometime difficult to decide whether they should be classified as white or qingbai wares.


Black wares

Jian (temmoku/Tianmu) ware

Jian black wares were made in Jian kilns situated in shuiji Jianyang (Ë®¼ª½¨Ñô£©in Fujian province.  Its major products were black glazed tea bowls with purplish black paste.  The most famous type had hare’s furs effect on it.  The hare’s furs are streaks which are either brownish or silvery white in colour.   Some highly priced type have bluish irridescent oil-spots of different sizes and shapes in the glaze.¡¡Those made for the palace had the inscribed chinese characters gongyu (¹©Óù£©or jinzhan £¨½øÕµ£©¡¡mark.

Tea contest was popular during the Song Dynasty.  Jian tea bowls were considered most suitable for such contest as its glossy black surface contrasted well with the white  tea.

During the Song Dynasty, the monasteries in the Tianmu mountains were frequently visit by Japanese monks who took the black tea bowls used in the monasteries with them when they returned home.  Hence black tea bowls came to be known as Tianmu (temmoku) in Japan.

Jian tea bowls were in high demand during the Song Dynasty and numerous kilns in Fujian also produced them to meet the demand.  There were also other kilns in provinces such as Zhejiang, Jizhou and sichuan which produced them.

Such bowls continued to be produced for sometime into the Yuan period.

For more information on Fujian temmoku, please read: Lianjiang shipwreck Fujian temmoku bowls


Jizhou ware

Jizhou kiln is situated in Yonghe £¨ÓÀºÍ£©in Ji’an £¨¼ª°²£©in Jiangxi province.  During the Southern Song period, Jizhou kiln developed a distinctive decorative technique which involved sprinkling a lighter glaze over a darker base glaze to produce the so called the tortoise shell and tiger fur effects.  They may have a dry mouldy mottled quality or could be more transparent and glossy if fired at a higher temperature.  There were many other varieties of  mottled effect.

The Jizhou potters also used paper cuttings  for decorations. The openwork stencils of cut paper was positioned on the  dark glaze surface.  A lighter glaze is then sprinkled over the whole surface.  A black design on a lighter colour mottled background is produced when the paper cutting is removed.   Some more commonly found papercut designs include plum blossom, floral spray, dragon, and phoenix.  There are also those with rhomboid patterns and 4 Chinese characters such as fu shou kang ning “¸£ÊÙ¿µŒŽ” ie  fortune, longevity, health and peace  or chang ming fu gui “³¤Ãü¸£¹ó” ie long life and prosperity.

During the late Song period, Jizhou also produced the underglaze iron-brown cizhou type painted motifs vessels.

For more on Jizhou ware, please read: Jizhou wares


Northern China black/brown wares

Northern kilns such as those in Henan and Hebei also produced beautiful oil spots black glaze tea bowl.  The Yaozhou and Ding black and Zijing glaze wares were also high excellent.   Henan kilns also made black wares with iron rust effect design of floral/bird and splashed design.  The black glaze was first applied and then the  design  painted over the glazed surface using iron-rich pigment.  The ware was fired at about 1300 degree centigrade and the iron pigment transformed into haematite crystals which is rust red in colour.


Kudat Song Shipwreck

The wreck was said to be discovered by fisherman on 15 Apr 2003.  However, based on the condition of the wreck, it is obvious that looting of the cargo had already taken place before the official announcement.   Some quantity of the ceramics from this wreck made their way to antique shops in Kota Kinabalu. The Sabah Museum gave Nanhai Marine Archaeology Sdn Bhd, a salvage company,  a permit to excavate the site. More than 800 ceramic and non-ceramic items were salvaged  from a depth of 400 metres from the Tanjung Simpang Mengayau shore at the northern tip of Borneo, close to Kudat in Sabah.  Simpang Mengayau meaning  ‘lingering junction‘ is where the South China Sea lingers and meets the Sulu Seas.  The treacherous coastline was the cause of many past shipwrecks.



Kudat wreck,  dated to the Song period, is the oldest  shipwreck discovered in Malaysian waters.  Some of the salvaged items are now on display at the Sabah museum.

I visited Sabah Museum in Aug 2011,  According to the museum short introduction of the wreck, the wreck is a Chinese merchant ship which was probably on its way to Brunei which ancient Chinese text recorded that it had diplomatic and trading relationship with China since the Song Dynasty.  The following types of ceramics were found:

  1. a)  Celadon bowls and dishes with carved motif from Tongan (同安)kiln in Fujian Province
  2. b)  Qingbai ewers and cover boxes from Fujian province
  3. c)  Celadon dishes with carved floral motif from Longquan
  4. d)  Kendis and jars from Guangdong province

After examining the ceramics artifacts on display, I am of the view that they are dated to Early Southern Song period.  Some of the Qingbai ewers , cover boxes, Fujian celadon with carved motif and Fujian cizao brown glaze kendis  are similar to those found in the Jepara shipwreck.  The celadon bowls and dishes with carved motif are from Fujian kilns, some could be produced in Tongan (同安) but we cannot preclude the possibility of other coastal kilns.  Kiln sites excavation revealed that kilns in county such as Nanan (南安), Fuqing (福清), Putian (莆田), Anxi (安溪) and  Minhou (闽侯) also produced similar style celadon wares. The dark brown kendis and jars are most likely products of Quanzhou Cizao (泉州磁灶) kiln  .

Ceramics recovered form the Kudat wreck



The ‘mercury jars’, ewers and kendis are most likely products of Cizao kiln in Quanzhou.


Cizao kiln kendis in Jepara wreck

Fujian celadon bowls with carved motif in Kudat wreck

Celadon bowl and dishes with carved motif from Fujian kiln

Qingbai ewers.  Similar ewers were recovered from Jepara wreck

Qingbai ewer from Fujian kiln from Jepara wreck

The large number of Fujian ceramics found in the Jepara, Nanhai 1 and Kudat wreck is testament of the importance of Quanzhou as the main port where goods were assembled and exported through the maritime trade route.   Quanzhou replaced Guangzhou as the most important port during the Southern Song period.  It maintained its prominent role during the Yuan period.  Fujian coastal region just like Guangdong during the Tang/Northern Song period, capitalised on its strategic location and built kilns to produce ceramics which copied the famous kiln such as celadon from Longquan, Qingbai from Jingdezhen and temmoku bowls from Jian kiln.  Such products targeted mainly the consumers from Southeast Asia region. However, some quantity also made their way along the mairtime trade route to places as far as India, middle East and East Africa.


Mr Koh


Sung Ceramic From Auction

Driwan Comment

I found this type ceramic at Jambi,Palembang,west java ,tuban and west Boneo, and Makasar




Huai-jen ware Stoneware with dark-brown glaze. Song Dynasty

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A CIZHOU-TYPE RUSSET-SPLASHED BLACKISH-BROWN-GLAZED BOWL NORTHERN SONG/JIN DYNASTY, 12TH-13TH CENTURY The rounded, conical body is covered on the interior and upper exterior with a lustrous, variegated, blackish-brown glaze that is decorated on the interior with five russet splashes, and on the exterior falls in an irregular line atop a thin brown glaze that ends irregularly above the foot to expose the granular ware that has fired to a buff color. 7 1/8 in. (18.2 cm.) diam.

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A JIZHOU PARTIALLY-GLAZED ‘WILLOW BASKET’ STONEWARE JAR SOUTHERN SONG/YUAN DYNASTY, 13TH-14TH CENTURY The unglazed exterior is finely combed with parallel lines forming concentric semi-circles on two sides and, at their longest, continuing under and across the small flat base. There is a combed band encircling the neck above a row of pointed bosses of white glaze. The rolled rim and interior are covered with a russet-mottled black glaze. 3 5/16 in. (8.4 cm.) across mouth

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Song Dynasty


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Vase with Waves China (Southern Song or Yuan Dynasty) The Cleveland Museum of Art

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kara miller ceramics #plates









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Kendi decorated in underglaze copper red, Jingdezhen, Ming dynasty, Hongwu period (1368-1398). Height: 15.3 cm, Width: 16 cm. C.54-1937. Sir Percival David Gift. © V Images.

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Porcelain flask decorated in underglaze blue with dragon design, China, Ming dynasty, ca. 1400-1430. Height: 13 in, Diameter: 8.5 in. 554-1878. © V Images.

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Vase, porcelain decorated in underglaze blue, China, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng mark and period, 1723-1735. Height: 52 cm. C.286-1910. © V Images.


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Cizhou-Vase in Mei-ping-Form. | North China / Province Hebei, Jin-Era 12. century




Cizhou-Vase in Mei-ping-Form. | North China / Province Hebei, Jin-Era 12. century



A rare green ‘jun’ ‘lotus bud’ water pot. Song dynasty. photo Sotheby’s




Jizhou ware porcelain bowl with speckle pattern, Song Dynasty

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Ewer, Northern Song dynasty 11th-12th century; Yaozhou ware. Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art




Vase (meiping) with inscription ‘Fine wine with delicate aroma’. Yuan-Ming dynasty, 1350-1400. Longquan kilns, south China. Stoneware with olive green (celadon) glaze. Height: 47 cm. FE.34-1972. E. V. Lee Gift. © V Images.

Jian Temmoku bowls (Jian Zhan)


Jian temmoku bowls were prized by tea connoisseurs during the Song Dynasty.  However, with changes to the tea drinking habits, it lost favour subsequently and awareness and knowledge of its eminent stature was erased from the Chinese memory with the passage of time. During the late Qing/Republican period, there was a revival of interest in these black glaze bowls as one category of antique Chinese ceramics for overseas collectors   Many of the antique ceramics, with some as early as the Neolithic period, were from ancient tombs/graves and kiln sites.  Many of the black glaze bowls that surfaced in the Shanghai and Beijing antique markets were defective bowls from kiln sites.  According to the Jianou chronicles (建欧县志) dated 18th year of Republican era  ie 1929 A.D,antique dealers  paid the villagers to illegally dig up Jian kiln black bowls and transport  them to Shanghai or Japan. 

James Marshall Plumer, an American who served as a custom officer in Fuzhou in Fujian, got wind that the bowls originated from Shuji (水吉) in Jianyang (建阳)in Minbei (Northern Fujian).  He made a trip there in 1935 and collected numerous sherds and kiln furnitures such as clay separator and saggars.  He became a Chinese ceramics scholar and was noted for his study on Jian temmoku bowls.  


Origin of the term Jian Zhan and Temmoku

The term Jian Zhan () first appeared in Japanese written sources during the early 14th century.   Zhan 盏)is a chinese word which means a small bowl during ancient time. Many writings related to Jian zhan mistook it to mean bowls from Jianyang as Shuiji where the kilns were located is now part of Jianyang county. But that only happened during the 20th century.  Prior to that, Shuiji came under the jurisdiction of Jianou (建欧) county.  In 207 A.D of the Eastern Han period, Jianou, known as Jianan (建安), was set up as a county.  It was elevated to prefecture status subsequently and renamed as Jianzhou (建州) in 621 A.D of the Tang era.  Cai Xiang (蔡襄) in his “Record of Tea”, Cha lu (), wrote : “.. The tea bowls made at Jianan have purplish black glaze with hare’s fur pattern. The body is slightly thicker and so retains the heat well.”  Hence, the term Jian Zhan is more likely refer to zhan from Jianan or Jianzhou.   However, in line with the Song convention of naming famous ceramics after the prefecture that they were made, such as Ding or Yue wares, it is most appropriate to understand it as meaning Jianzhou zhan.

Nowadays, it is common to refer to Jian Zhan as Temmoku (Tenmoku) bowls.  According to the Qing chronicle “Da Qing Yi Tong Zhi”  (大清一统志)”, Tianmu mountain (Tenmoku in Japanese), located in present day Zhejiang Linan city (临安市), had many zen sect temples during the Song/Yuan period.  Many Japanese monks went there to study and practice Zen Buddhism.  When returning to Japan, they brought back with them black glaze tea bowls which included those from Jianzhou and other kilns, which they termed Tenmoku bowls (天目碗)ie bowls from Tianmu mountian. Tea drinking is an effective means to stay awake during meditation. 

In the Japanese work (禅林小歌dated 1394 – 1427 A.D, there appeared to be distinction between various types of Jian zhan and other types of tea bowls such as  Fuzhou zhan  (福州) and tenmoku.  However, subsequently the term tenmoku was used loosely to refer to all types of black/brown tea bowls.  

Tianmu mountain in Linan city located west of  Hangzhou

Tea competition and Jian Zhan

Tea from Fujian Fuzhou and Jianzhou were mentioned in Tang Lu Yu’s treatise on tea (陆羽茶经).  By the Northern Song Dynasty, Jianzhou tea, ie Jian cha (建茶) achieved so much fame for its quality that in 977 A.D, Bei Yuan Yu Cha Yuan (北苑御茶园), an officially managed imperial  tea plantation was established in Jianzhou (present day Jianou city).  The tea leaves gone through the process of powdering, steaming and baking. After which, they were packed in cake form before sending to the palace.   

Cai Xiang (1012 – 1048 A.D) ), a native of Xianyou (仙游) in Fujian, was once  in charge and supervised the official Beiyuan tea plantation.  During the stint in Jianzhou, he gained deep knowledge of a leisure activity called tea competition enjoyed by the locals.  He became an ardent convert.  Using his influence as a high ranking court official, he introduced the art of Fujian tea competition to the imperial court.   In his  treatise “Record of Tea”, Cai Xiang ranked  a type of white Jiancha called Dragon Pheonix tea (Longfeng tea 龙凤茶) and Jian purplish black glaze bowl with hare’s fur pattern as the best for tea competition. Through his active promotion, tea competition became a popular and noble activity of the imperial court and the literati class.  This activity gained a further boost during the late Northern Song Emperor Huizong’s reign ( AD 1101-1125).  He was a great connoisseur of the tea culture and displayed his in-depth understanding in a twelve-chapter dissertation “Discussion of Tea in the Daguan period ” (Da Guan cha lun 观茶录 ).  He too advocated Jian hare’s fur tea bowls as the best for tea competition.  The competition was judged based on certain criteria, such as the taste, fragrance, colour of the tea (white superior to yellowish tone).  During the contest,  the tea was whisked to white froth  The tea should stay well-mix and the first to show traces of residue loss was declared the loser. 

Tea competitions became the favourite past time of the rich and poor in many areas in China. Due to popular demand, Jian kilns produced large quantity of tea bowls during the Song period.  For those common folks who could not afford Jian Zhan, they could avail themselves of cheaper version of tea bowls produced in other provinces and numerous other Fujian kilns.  


Origin, dating and characteristics of Jian Zhan

Shuiji, a market town in present day Jianyang,was the location where the ancient Jian kilns were found.  Since 1960, 4 official archaeological excavations, ie in 1960, 1977, 1990 and 1991,  were carried out in Shuiji.  Kilns were discovered in small villages in:

  • Luhuaping (芦花坪) – celadon and black glaze sherds
  • Niupilun (牛皮仑)–   celadon and black glaze sherds
  • Daluhoumen (大路后) –  black glaze, small quantity celadon and blue and white sherds
  • Yuangtoukeng(源头坑) – black glaze sherds 
  • Anweishan (庵尾山) –  celadon and black glaze sherds
  • Shuiweilan (水尾) – black glaze sherds
  • Yingzhanggan (营长乾– black glaze and qingbai sherds
  • Qililan (七里) .– black glaze sherds


Based on archaelogical evidence, small scale celadon wares were produced during late Tang/5 Dynasty period in kilns located at sites such as  Luhuaping (芦花坪), Niupilun (牛皮仑) and Anweishan (庵尾山).  The wares consisting of bowls, plates, jars, ewers, cover boxes and etc.  The vessels which are generally rough and stylistically similar to the celebrated yue wares. The glaze is generally uneven and the lower portion of the external wall of the vessel is unglaze. The vessels were fired with protection of saggars.

By late 5 Dynasty/Early Northern Song, the Jian potters started to produce two types of shallow bowls with slightly in-curving rim.   The lower external wall and foot is unglaze.  The glaze is thin and black/dark brown in colour. The bowl is quite thinly potted with a slight protrusion on the inner base.  Below the rim, the wall is of relatively even thickness.  The paste is greyish or greyish brown.  Such bowls were recovered from the kiln in Anweishan (庵尾山).  The bowl was fired upright in a saggar.

Precursor of the typical Jian wares

Tao Gu (陶穀) (903 – 970 A.D) in his work Qingyilu (清异) wrote that among the tea bowls made in Min (Fujian), there are those decorated with partridge-feather mottles.  His work has often been quoted to back the dating of Jian tea bowls to 5 Dynasty/early Northern Song period.   It gives the impression that by late 5 Dynasty/early Northern Song, Jian potters were already producing the celebrated Jian zhan.  However, based on archaeological evidence, the bowls of late 5 Dynasty/Early Song period are generally rough as compared with the mature products of mid Northern Song onward.  Extant tea bowls with partridge-feather mottles are found in bowls which were stylistically  produced at least from mid Northern Song period onward.  In fact, the authenticity of Qingyilu is now being questioned by some Chinese scholars.  Some suggested that it was a fictitious work of late Northern Song period.

Based on the archaeological findings, the typical Jian tea bowls were produced from the Mid Northern Song (perhaps from 2nd quarter of 11th century) to late Southern Song period. Jian kilns also produced small quantity of  black glaze cups, bowl-shaped lamps and bo-shaoed bowls. There are at least 8 different types of tea bowls in 3 sizes that were produced during the duration.  

From the bowls recovered from the kilns, it is clear that type 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 8 were found in large quantity.  Type 1 with a conical form and an indent near the rim is the most classical form which is usually associated with the celebrated Jian Zhan.  Based on Jian bowls recovered from graves, this form became the dominant form from the late Northern Song period onward.  In fact this served as a prototype which was widely copied by potters from other kilns. Compared with those from other kilns, the typical Jian bowl has a thicker and lustrous glaze.  The paste is usually purplish black and more dense.  (It should be noted some especially the small size bowls have greyish or redish brown paste.  This is because they were placed in locations  which received uneven or lower heat while firing in the kiln). The unglaze lower portion is carefully finished.  It appears smooth and usually do not show shaving marks when trimming the external wall.  The wall of the bowl thickens as it descends towards the foot. The base is thick and the square cut foot is neat and the outer base sits within a shallow inner footring.   


Some examples of Jian tea bowls

For tea  bowls sent as tribute to the palace, there are at least a portion which is marked with Gongyu (供御) ie tribute or Jinzhan (进盏) meaning to present bowl.  The characters are either incised or impressed.  They were found in the kilns dated mid Northern Song to Southern Song. 


Besides Gongyu and Jinzhan mark, there are also others incised with chinese characters of surname/name of the potter/or kiln owner or Chinese character/chinese numeral which could indicate location which item was to be place in the kiln.


Bowls with glaze decorated with hare’s fur marking or  partridge feather mottles were highly prized by the Song tea culture connoisseurs.  Many Song literati made reference to them in their poems and commentary. Hare’s fur markings are silvery or rustic streaks which are found on the interior and exterior wall of the lustrous black glaze bowl.  According to Nigel Wood in his book “Chinese Glazes”, once the glaze melted, a layer of thin iron-rich droplets coalesced to form a thin layer within the glaze.  Some of the iron-rich droplets were brought ot the surface by bubbles and run down the sides of the bowl under the influence of gravity.  The iron oxide in these streaks crystalised out into silvery tone if under reduction or rustic tone if under oxidisation atmosphere.  


Hare’s fur bowl with rustic streaks


Hare’s fur sherd  with silvery streaks 



As regard Partridge feather’ glaze,  in the past there were debate on whether the markings actually refers to fine markings on the back of the partridge or large light-coloured spots on its breast.  Most argued that it cannot be the fine markings on the back as some other types of bird  also have similar marking.  On the other hand, large light-coloured spots is unique to a type of partridge in Fujian.  This is now the more widely accepted meaning for partridge feather mottles.  In 1988 a  shard with 66 carefully placed white glaze spots was excavated from the Shuiweilan (水尾)  kiln.  The base has a incised gong yu mark  suggesting that it was originally intended for tribute.  This is now acknowledged as partridge feather glaze. It make sense of a Northern Song poet’s description of a Jian bowl having markings that appear ‘like melting snow on dark water.


A Fujian partridge with white spots on the breast

Jian sherd with white spots and gongyu mark

In the Japanese collections, there are some Jian Zhan with silvery or rustic oil-spots (termed Yuteki in Japanese). In DaDe Temple, Kyoto in Japan there is a Jian Zhan with oil-spots.   The silvery oil-spots are large, the result of several oil-spots congealed into bigger spots during firing.  Indeed, they resemble the partridge spots.  Those with smaller oil-spots are also classified as partridge feather type although strictly speaking the similarity is less convincing.




Oil spots Tenmoku in Japanese collection. The spots are smaller as compared with that from Dade temple


Oil spots tenmoku bowls are scarce.  According to Nigel Wood : “It happened occasionally that kiln temperatures began to fall while the glazes were still boiling, thereby fixing the iron-rich spots before they could run down into streaks. … The effect was copied in north China during the the Song and Jin period,  using a more reliable technique that involved the application of an iron-rich (and perhaps magnetite-based) slip beneath an ordinary black temmoku glaze. The success of this approach has meant that northern oil spot temmokus are less uncommon than the jian originals.”    His comments is important and rectify the erroneous explanations in some past published text that Jian hare’s fur and oil spots glaze involves the application of an iron-rich slip.

There are 4 extremely rare tenmoku bowls with yohen glaze in the Japanese collections.   The term Yohen means dazzling and brilliant kiln transmutation.  The  clusters of brown-colored spots of various sizes are either surrounded by light blue or deep blue or golden iridescent film. 

In the past, no known example of Yohen was found outside Japan.  Few years ago, a broken piece was found in Hangzhou in a location near the imperial palace.


Yohen temmoku found in Hangzhou

By the late Southern Song period, Jian potters also manufactured qingbai wares with carved or impressed motif.  One of the kiln at Yingzhanggan (营长乾) has a layer of qingbai sherds above Jian zhan sherds layer.  This indicated that Jian kiln was facing stiff competition from Jingdezhen which produced Qingbai wares.  The decline popularity of Jian Zhan could also be linked to the decline in popularity of tea competition. To ensure their survival, some kilns were forced to branch out and  produce the increasingly more popular Qingbai wares.  Latest by early Yuan period, Jian kilns ceased production.


 Temmoku bowls from other Fujian kilns

To meet the hugh domestic and overseas demand for temmoku bowls, they were also produced in large quantity in other kilns in Fujian, mainly in Jianyan (建阳), Wuyishan (武夷山), Songxi (松溪), Guangze (), Jianou (建瓯), Pucheng (蒲城), Nanping (南平) , Changting (长汀), Fuqing (), Minhou (闽侯) and Ningde (宁德).  Most of the sites produced a mix of celadon, qingbai and black wares.  For temmoku bowls, the dominant form produced were similar or variants of the Jian conical bowl with the indent near the rim.  

Among the sites, those at Wuyishan Yulinting (武夷山遇林亭), Nanping Chayang (南平茶洋)  and Fuzhou Dongzhang (福州东张) were large in scale and were found in overseas  especially Japan.  

Wuyishan Yulinting (武夷山遇林亭) produced an interesting form with decoration in gold.  In most instances, the decorations have faded and only traces could be seen.  The motif includes dragon phoenix, crane, pine, bamboo, prunus, flowers and orchid.   There were also those with auspicious wordings or landscape.  In some past ceramics publications, such bowls have been erroneously attributed to Jian kiln. Bowls from this kiln have mainly  greyish to greyish white paste.

A bowl with traces of gold decoration of auspicious phrase “寿山福海” connoting longevity

The medium size temmoku bowls from Nanping Chayang (南平茶洋) is distinguishable by a thin horizontal ridge where the foot meet the wall.  This feature appears to be unique to this kiln. The shaving marks are usually clearly seen on the unglaze lower external wall.  


A medium size (12 cm dia. ) bowl from Nanping Chayang kiln

In the 1980s, local residents recovered a large number of small Temmoku tea bowls from a wreck at Bai Jiao (白礁) in Fujian Lianjiang Dinghai (连江定海).  The Fujian ceramic experts observed that many of the bowls were similar to those produced at Fuqing Dongzhang (请东张) and Minhou Nanyu (闽侯南屿) and dated them to Southern Song period. Dong Zhang kiln complex was large and comparable in size to that at the Jian complex.  They produced large quantities of temmoku and celadon bowls.  In the Japanese work (禅林小歌dated 1394 – 1427 A.D, a type of tea bowl  called Fuzhou zhan (福州) was mentioned.  During the Song/Yuan period, Fuqing and Minhou came under the jurisdiction of Fuzhou.  Hence, Fuzhou zhan most probably included tea bowls produced in those two counties.  In ancient sites in Japan Fukuoka and Kamakura, there were numerous similar type of tea bowls recovered and were dated to mid 12th to first half of 13th century.  Many Dongzhang bowls were also recovered from ancients sites in the coastal Fujian region.   

After studying the large number of small tea bowls from the Lianjiang wreck in my collection, it is hard to confirm with certainty the actual kiln of production. Those from Dongzhang, Minhou Nanyu (闽侯南屿) and Ningde Feiluan (宁德飞鸾) appear similar.  They share the characteristics of having a casual finishing with poorly formed foot and shaving marks.  The profile of the conical bowl with the indent at the rim could vary to a large degree.  The lower wall could descent more gradually or steeply to the foot.  The glaze is more thinly applied and large number show a thinner layer of glaze especially at the lower wall near the foot.  Some of the bowls also have bluish white or rustic hare’s fur markings but are not well-defined and clear compared to those from the Jian Kiln.  The colour of the glaze ranges from black, black with rustic patches, brown, tea-dust or rustic .

Examples from Lianjiang wreck showing the different profile of the conical bowls

Examples from Lianjiang wreck.  Below one shows traces of hare’s fur markings


Some examples of temmoku bowls from the  Min Hou, Fuqing and Ningfei kilns are shown below.



Written by : NK Koh 



Compare with yuan celadon at the next page

Dr Iwan Comment

I upload this CD-Rom after I found some Song ware from West Java.

To more now I upload the info from my other research

The Chinese ancestor Song

Read and Look at the next page

If the collectors want to get this CD-Rom

Please contact me via email

donnot forget to upload you ID copy and the home address

this important to protect from

internet hijact.

Southern Sung Dynasty Ceramic





Emperor china during

. 960 AD to 1279 AD Song and Liao and Jin Dynasty Emperors


Emperor Song Taizu

Emperor Song Taizong

Emperor Song Huizong

Emperor Song Gaozong




China was unified again by

the Song Dynasty

(960 – 1279).

The Song dynasty produced a complex series of coins. Song emperors used many reign titles and different calligraphy styles were used in the coins.






This is a guide to the coins of

the Northern Sung Dynasty

(AD 960 to 1126),

the coin uncommon and rare.

Dr Iwan Notes

The Nothern Song found many than the Southern Song Coins


The Sung Dynasty, established in AD 960,

saw relative stability in China, although conflict with the Tartars and Mongols continued. In AD 1127 the northern provinces were lost to them


the capital had to be moved from

K’ai-feng Fu (Pien-liang) in the north


Lin-an Fu (Hangchou) in the south.

We now refer to the period before the move as the Northern Sung and after the move as Southern Sung.

This is a complex series, with nine Emperors using dozens of reign titles and many inscription and calligraphy variations which defined dates and mints. If the variations were catalogued, they would number in the thousands. Unfortunately the key to understanding them no longer exists..

Song Dynasty,

Is Many Armor Leaves (Iron Sheet) One Kind Of Iron Armor Which Connects With The Rawhide Or The Armor Nail Becomes. It Protects The Whole Body Nearly, For China Ancient Armor’s Apex.


Northern Song Dynasty



Emperor Taizu – Song Dynasty


[ ] Emperor Taizu [Tai-tsu] , the first emperor


[ ]Emperor Taizong



[ ]Emperor Zhengzong

[ ] Emperor Renzong

[ ]Yinzong

[ ]Shenzong

[ ]Zhezong

[ ]Huizong

[ ]Qinzong


Due to many North and south Sung Coins found in Indonesia were the history fact that North Sung Empire had many trading to the Indonesian kingdom starting from the later srivijaya and the kingdom after that after the Sung empewor had helped srivijaya and another kingdom from the Tamil Indian chola king occupation Indonesia, and all the Indonesian Kingdom sent tribute to Sung empires that is why the north sung cash coin were upload completey for better wto learn with more detailed information





At the standard in use since the T’ang, the Northern Sung monetary system was based on full weight bronze 1 cash averaging 3.5 grams, 2 cash averaging 7 grams cast sporadically after AD 1093, and on a few occasions, usually during times of war, bronze 3 and 10 cash fiduciary coins cast to the 2 and 3 cash standard. In addition to bronze coins, fiduciary iron coins were also cast through much of this period.

AD 960 to 1041.

The only bronze northern song coins were full-weight 1 cash.



In the reign Hwei-tsung (1101-1126) the terribale mistake was made of misunderstanding the Chin or Nurchen Tartarsto help against the Kjitan Tartars which they did and then promptly took over over all their Capital of Nanking.

(Warren E.Cox,1970)


In 1127 Hwei-tsung took over Hang Chou. Close on the heels of the Chins came the Mongols under the great Jnghiz Khan in 1214 and his son Ogodai was left heir to whole northern section at his death in 1127.

(Warren E.Cox,1970)



The Sanghyang Tapak or also called Jayabhupati inscription, dated 952 saka (1030 CE). Displayed at National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta.


Discovered in Pancalikan, Bantar Muncang, Cibadak, Sukabumi, West Java.




The inscription was edicted by Jayabhupati, king of Sunda kingdom

that declared forbidden (conservation?) lands east of Sanghyang Tapak, that forbade people from catching fish in the river and wetlands in this area.






AD 1041.

Fiduciary 3 cash (S-505) of about 7 grams and 29 mm. This was the earliest North Sung issue higher than a 1 cash. As a fiduciary issue it proved unpopular and subject to counterfeiting and

in AD 1059

was devalued to 2 cash, consistent with the weight.


Out of this defeat, however, emerged the reign of Airlangga, founder of Java’s first empire.

Reputedly the son of a Balinese king and a Javanese princess, he was able to bring east and central Java, as well as Bali, under a relatively united regime, though this probably meant that he was able to keep up a sustained intimidation of regional lords, rather than that he ruled closely.

His capital was at Kahuripan in the lower reaches of the Brantas and his seaport, Hujung Galah, was probably close to the site of modern Surabaya.

On his deathbed in 1049,


between his two sons, one taking the lower reaches of the Brantas as ruler of a kingdom known as Janggala, the other establishing a new capital in Panjalu (later Kediri) and ruling a kingdom called Daha. Hardly any information on either kingdom has survived, but two hundred years later, when records are once more available, the division was still politically significant.

By the early 13th century, Kediri had conquered Janggala, but in 1222, Kediri itself was overthrown by a usurper, Ken Angrok, who established his capital at Singhasari. Singhasari’s greatest ruler was Kertanegara, who presided over a time of rapid development in Javanese culture


AD 1070.

Fiduciary bronze 10 cash (S-538) of 7.2 grams and 30 mm were issued to raise funds for the Western Wars. As with the earlier fiduciary issues, these were unpopular and subject to counterfeiting and were devalued to 2 cash at the war’s end. Iron 10 cash were also issued at this time.



AD 1093.

Full-weight 2 cash of about 7.0 grams and 29 mm. (S-575) were introduced as a regular part of the currency, but only issued sporadically.

AD 1102.

Fiduciary 10 cash (S-621) were cast in an attempt to introduce them as a regular part of the coinage. At about 11 grams and 31 mm these contained 3 cash worth of metal and were devalued to value 3 cash in AD 1111.

AD 1107.

A full weight 10 cash was issued (S-630) at about 27 grams and 50 mm, but was withdrawn within a year. These appear to have been hoarded, and used as a cheap source of metal for counterfeiting the fiduciary 10 cash issues still circulating from the issue of AD 1102.




The earliest northern Song iron coins

consisted of non-fiduciary 1/10 cash. Schjoth (page 28) records: “In the 2nd year of Ching-te (AD 1005) large iron coins were cast in the two localities of Chia-ting Fu and Chiung-chou in Szechuan, value one copper cash or ten small iron cash. These all circulated jointly and gave much satisfaction.”

The large iron coins, of bronze 1 cash value, seem to be S-472 (10.83 grams, 35 mm). We believe

the “small iron cash”

valued at 1/10th of a copper cash are the well known iron issues of bronze cash size and weight which start with the T’ai-p’ing (S-462) issues of AD 976-984. This would explain a passage where Schjoth records Mr. Hu, in AD 978, paid for copying some sacred classics with

120 strings of iron money. Recording payment specifically in iron money would not be necessary unless iron and copper cash were valued differently. This establishes iron at about 1/10th the value of copper, a figure very important to understanding other iron issues. The larger iron coin (S-472), at about 11 grams, was fiduciary with only about 0.3 cash worth of iron.

A careful analysis of the coins, as well as the literary evidence, suggests the following sequence:

AD 978. Non-fiduciary 1/10 cash iron coins are first cast. It is possible that earlier specimens may one day come to light.

AD 990. Non-fiduciary 1/10 cash iron coins cease to be cast, but continue to circulate until at least AD 1005.

AD 1004 (possibly a little earlier). Fiduciary iron 1 cash ware introduced (S-472) at 11 grams, 35 mm and issued sporadically throughout the Northern Sung period but at ever-reducing weights and sizes.

AD 1017. The standard for iron 1 cash is reduced to about 7 grams, 28 mm (S-483).

AD 1023. The size of iron 1 cash is reduced to about 25 mm, but the weight remains at about 7.0 grams (S-487).

AD 1070. Fiduciary iron 10 cash (S-542a) of 35 mm and variable weight between 7.5 and 11 grams are issued to finance the Western Wars. At the end of the war these are devalued to 2 cash.

AD 1093. Iron 2 cash (S-580) introduced at the same standard as the 10 cash of AD 1070, but prove an unsuccessful experiment and by the end of AD 1094 are trading at scrap iron prices (about 0.4 cash).

AD 1101. The weights of iron 1 cash become variable (S-615) averaging about 5.75 grams but specimens between 3.5 and 7 grams are encountered. The size remains consistent at about 25 mm.

AD 1111. Iron 2 cash (29 mm, 7-10 grams) (S-643) and 3 cash (32 mm, 9-11 grams) are cast but again faile to be accepted.




When we were first writing this site, the issuing and later devaluations of fiduciary coins appeared somewhat random, but it quickly became obvious this was not the case.

All of the iron coins, with the exception of the early 1/10 cash issues were fiduciary. Fiduciary 1 cash iron coins were accepted throughout this period, but all attempts at higher denominations were rejected.

It appears that almost all fiduciary bronze coins, and most fiduciary iron over 1 cash, were only cast during times of war or other emergencies and afterwards the bronze coins were devalued to denominations consistent with their size and weight, while iron coins were demonetized and withdrawn from circulation.

Fiduciary bronze was always cast to standards consistent with lower denominations, allowing them to be devalued later and still fit into the pre-existing coinage system. This shows planning, suggesting they were cast with the full intent of a future devaluation. (The same is not true of fiduciary iron coins).




Northern Sung coins present a complex series of inscription variations which, while easily catalogued, are poorly understood. Date and mint codes are probably hidden in these variations, but it is possible we will never understand them.



Schjoth’s introduction to Northern Sung coinage (page 27) says: “As regards the style of writing, the coins in the ‘seal’ writing come first, followed by those in the clerkly or orthodox writing, and ultimately finishing up with the ‘running’ hand, or ‘grass-character’ style of writing.”

By using “or” he is saying “clerkly” and “orthodox” are one script style, “running hand” and “grass-character” are a second. Seal script is the third style. A quick examination of the coins shows his statement of only three styles of calligraphy are correct.


  • “SEAL” –

Zhong he tong bao@

a very formal style of writing. Rounded characters with a fixed form and all details of each character included. The differences between coins are minor. There is no real Western equivalent, but type set block capital letters come closest.


  • “ORTHODOX” –

Chong he tong bao

Ta ting tung pao

also referred to as “clerkly”. Angular characters with a generally square or rectangular appearance in which most details are made up of distinct either straight or slightly curved stokes. The general layout of a character is fixed, but small details can be left out. From coin to coin there can be significant differences. The closest Western equivalent is handwritten small-case printing.


  • “GRASS” –

Chung hua yung bao@

Yuan feng tong bao@

Compare the same coin in seal script


Northern Song ZhiDao YuanBao Grass script US $6.00@





Compare with the very rare

Li script

Jing Kang Tong Bao



Northern Song dynasty, 960-1127,

Jing Kang Tong Bao, 1126, iron 1 cash, H16.518, S-669, Li script, aVF $180.00 sold 7/4/2011


also referred to as “running hand”. Flowing characters on which several details of a character can be represented by a single wavy or jagged line. A form of shorthand in which a character can show major differences from coin to coin. This is distinctly like Western handwriting (as opposed to hand printing).

Confusion throughout the general listings, such as for S-633-637 (page 33) where he states the type exists in both “clerkly” and “orthodox” script leads us to believe Schjoth did not write this part of the catalogue. It must have been written by someone working from his rough notes in which must the terms have been used interchangeably.

We relied on Schjoth’s drawings and descriptions to determine the calligraphy style of most issues, but the drawings are not always accurate. Some of the drawings show coins with a mix of orthodox and grass characters, in which cases we list the coin by the style of the 12 o’clock character. If actual specimens confirm this mixing of types, we will comment on them later.



In his introduction to the Northern Sung coinage, Schjoth (page 27) writes “It will be noted that the Yuan-paos, implying the ‘opening’ or ‘beginning’ currency are placed before the T’ung-paos, implying the principle of the ‘flowing’ currency.”

A simple examination of the coins shows no such relationship exists. There is also a third ending,”Chung-pao”, which Schjoth has ignored in this passage. We have noted the following pattern in the use of these endings:

AD 960 to 989 –

all coins use “T’UNG PAO”.

AD 990 to 1007 –

all coins use “YUAN-PAO”.

AD 1008-1016 –

both “T’UNG PAO” and “YUAN-PAO” during the same reign title.




AD 1041 –

Chung ning chung pao

a third ending of “CHUNG-PAO” was introduced.

AD 1017-1041 –

only one ending was used during any reign title, but it could be either “T’UNG PAO”, “YUAN-PAO” or (after AD 1041) “CHUNG-PAO.

AD 1053-1126 –

no evident pattern. Anywhere from one to three endings used in any reign title. In the cases where only one was used, it could be any of the three.

At this time we cannot comment of the significance of these endings, but there must be one. Coins of some reign titles are very rare and it is possible new types may turn up which will help establish a more significant pattern.




Northern Sung coins occur with inscriptions reading either



Tai ping tung bao




Grass script Northern Song Dynasty, Sheng Song Yuan Bao 1101-1106A.D.

1cash “Knotted Sheng” – Price 55 USD



Other example

Seal script Yua yao yuan bao@

Orthodox script Tong Seng Yuan bao

Both orientations occur throughout and some issues can be found either way. We have not yet been able to determine any significance of these two orientations.













over 35




Sung yuan tong bao

3.2 grams












3.1 grams@






3.2 grams


CHIH-TAO yuan pao











3.5 grams





3.6 grams


CHING-TE yuan pao


3.5 grams










3.7 grams





3.2 grams




3.7 grams



3.9 grams



3.7 grams



huang yu tong pao @



3.6 grams



3.3 grams



3.3 grams

7.2 grams



2.7 grams




3.7 grams


CHIA-YU yun pao

3.5 grams


CHIH-P’ING yuan pao@

3.6 grams



3.5 grams@

7.2 grams@



3.3 grams@

7.0 grams



3.2 grams

7.8 grams



3.7 grams

7.0 grams



1.7 grams

3.2 grams

7.4 grams



Shen shung yuan pau

2.0 grams

3.6 grams@

6.5 grams



2.7 grams

10.3 grams



3.85 grams

?? grams

23.5 grams



3.3 grams2

7.2 grams



4.9 grams



3.4 grams

6.1 grams

6.7 grams@



7.3 grams



We materialist can perhas graps the greatnesof time throught the reports of Marco Polo who vist the Chinese country in 1280 in which he tells the city of Hang Chou with his canal bridges , it is said , by 12.000 stone bridges, its hundreds , literally of hot water baths , its many markets , the great lake covered with pleasure boats and the streets thronged with busy people.

He tells of the good lives of the merchants and the craftsmen , and speak s of the fact that no person carried arms , a wondrous thing to an Italian of that day.

Little did the roll of distant thunder disturb them and they made the merry and productive , and among their products was pottery valued quite as highly as jade and bronze. The wares as we known them were no longer always laid away in tombs.

Wooden , paper , and clay figures long ago fallen to dust in many places were us for this purpose, much that we have I the precious inheritance of ancient families and the wasters cast aside t the kilns.

Thus when one looks at a Sung vase one often sees the purest Chinese taste , expressed by by an inspired artist of a great age and cherished and held clear for well-high a thousand years by generation aftergeneration of sensibly sensitive people.

But even the Wasters from these inspiration of the artists as studio sketches sometime show of freshness not always preserved in afinished painting.

The Chinse themselves haves always loved the ware of Sung and we can turn to their book of our information . Of these the best known are

The Cho Keng In (1368) a miscellany on art

The Ko Ku Yao Lun ( 1387) 2nd edition 1459.

The album of Hsiang yuan-p’ien (1561)

The Tsung She’ng Pa Chien (1591)

The Ch’ing Pi Ts’ang ( 1595)

The Po W’u Yao Lan ( 1621-1627 )

Tha T’ao Shuo ( 1774) which incorporates given the former works and others.

The Cheng-te’ C’en T’ao Lu(1815) which also covers much of the same ground , and which has to do with the famous potteries at Ching-te’ Che’ng in the Ch’ang nan district east of Po Yang Lake in Kiangsi province , given its same by Ching Te’ ( 1004-1007) and which in the 19th century was commanded by the Emperor Yung Che’ng to make reproductions of Sung wares for which purpose specimens were down from the Imperial Palace Collections.

Readmore infoexploration google

The Cho Keng In (1368) a miscellany on art

Landscape Painting in China and Italy
during the late 13th Century

Marco Polo is known in the East and the West as the first European to write his exciting adventures of China. His experiences are described in a book called ‘The Travels of Marco Polo, A Venetian in the Thirteenth century’ the text is a description, of remarkable places and things, in the Eastern parts of the world. His journey in 1271 to China happened at a time of great change for the people in China and Italy.

I will use his travels as a backdrop to consider how the changes were affecting artistic production at the time, for the artists back in Italy, and those in China. During this time the Mongolians were ruling China and it was called the Yuan Dynasty. The artists that I shall focus on all lived in or around Soochow a city known as the Venice of the East. These artists were known as The Four Great Masters of the Yuan Dynasty. They are Huan Kung-Wang, Wang Meng, Wu Chen, and Ni Tsan together they wrote the Wen-Jen system of landscape painting that instructs the artist to work on his own inner journey of self expression.

I will also focus on Marco Polo’s Renaissance Italy and two of the most famous Italian artists of his time. I will begin with Ambrogio Lorenzetti known as the first westerner to paint a landscape painting. He was commissioned in 1337 by the government of Sienna, the Great Council of the Republic of Sienna. The work is called Allegory of the Good and Bad government and its Effects on the City and the Countryside.

Allegory of the Good and Bad government and its Effects on the City and the Countryside.By Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1337

Allegory of the Good and Bad government and its Effects on the City and the Countryside.By Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1337

My second artist Giotto di Bondone is considered to be the first artist to bring landscape backgrounds and emotion to the stories in his frescoes. He received many commissions to paint for the Catholic Church. I will focus my attention on his frescoes of the life of St Francis of Assisi.

This was a time of great political and economic change in both countries, and by discussing the art works of these artists the different ways of responding to the Social and political pressures will be examined and the findings shown.

In the East and the West a new spiritual awakening was also being experienced by the artists as paintings of nature and landscapes were executed for the first time in Italy and in a fresh new way in China.

My interest in this subject stems from having been a silk haute couturier and silk trader in the Venice of the East Soochow from 1974 until 1990. The embroidery that I commissioned in Soochow was also based on landscapes.

Landscape embroidery

Venice of the East and the West

Marco Polo was born into a very wealthy Italian family in Venice in 1254 at a time when the political power and prestige of Venice was greatly increasing. When Marco Polo was three years old his father and uncles sold the family’s assets in Constantinople, invested in jewels and set off for China on the silk route.

They met the Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan 1 214-1 294 in Peking who was extremely interested in western politics and the church. His mother Sorghaghtani Beki was a Christian who had taught him sound administration. He was willing to try Christianity as a means of holding together his vast empire. He asked many questions on the teachings of Jesus.

He wanted their opinion on which branch of Christianity united the people and achieved the most good. The Kublai Khan sent them back to Italy requesting that the Pope send one hundred priests to China. But years of Crusades, and scheming cardinals had left the Catholic church short of good men. The Pope sent three.

On his father’s return to Venice, Marco Polo was told that in a few months {it would be three years} they would be leaving to return to China. He was now fourteen and one of the rich young men of the town, Marco Polo describes the young men in Venice In his own words;

“who paraded through the city like peacocks with tight fitting hose, stripped silk doublets embroidered in real gold thread, with fancifully decorated belts, slashed sleeves tied at points by ribbons with puffs of white linen, and red jewelled caps pulled low over one ear, and long hair tied in a ribbon” 1.

As Marco Polo walked around Venice he would observe the marvels of the hard working artisans. These artists were not known by name and given no social privileges. Even the designer of the breathtakingly beautiful mosaics of St Marks Basilica is not known.

“There were busy workshops everywhere. There were potteries and studios producing exquisite porcelain There were leather factories, iron founders and boatyards silk weavers jewelers and goldsmiths. The mosaicists were skilfully piecing fragments together of coloured marble, held together by paste made of lime and powered brick.” 2

This was a blossoming economy trading with Europe and the East and fast becoming politically powerful. Marco Polo’s ability for social anthropology would later be capitalized on by the Kublai Khan who would employ Marco Polo to travel China to observe and report on the trade, and on the political activities of his Chinese subjects.

Venice was considered the most beautiful and ostentatious town in Italy with her canals lined with palaces of exquisite marble decoration, with the Palaces filled with art works and treasures of every kind. The rich started to collect the most impressive paintings in their palaces and churches; and decorate their walls and themselves in the most beautiful and rare imported gold embroidered silk textiles.

Soochow in China is also known as the Venice of the East. It is situated South East of Peking, in the Chiang-nan region which is not only considered to be the most scenic and climatically comfortable , but is also economically in the richest part of China. It is a town of waterways, trade and commerce. One of her main crafts is silk weaving and embroidery, and the Imperial Court textiles were designed and made here. Trade with the west has a long history, and these best quality silks, often embellished with real gold embroidery, were chosen for export.

Soochow had the most beautiful walled gardens of all China. A little known fact is that outside the town, up in the mountains are landscapes of breathtaking scenery. Soochow has a long history of being the home of the most famous politician artists, who were also philosophers, poets and writers, the wealthy educated elite, the aristocrats of China. Soochow under the Yuan Dynasty of the Mongolian Gengis Khan, had undergone vast changes the wealthy had become poor and the poor starving or dead, the town taxed and raped of her valuables, and her gardens in ruins. This was the state in which Marco Polo found Soochow on his visit there. His chief point of interest was the rhubarb, which was then, and still is, one of the main sources of trade in West Kansu.

The situation of the painters in these two cultures at the time of Marco Polo’s journey.

When Marco Polo arrived in China the most violent conqueror in all history, the millions-murdering Gengis Khan had died. It was he who had banned the Chinese politician-artists from court life, and sent them back to Soochow. His grandson the Kublai Khan was now ruling China, all the infrastructures of good government were in decline and he invited the politician-artists to return to court.

They had been through a period of humbling, a time of poverty, physical hardship and philosophical training, few chose to return to a life of political power. They were experiencing a new external and inner spiritual freedom that resulted in the rules and regulations of painting undergoing vast changes.

“Understanding the achievements of the Yuan masters then is as crucial to the study of later Chinese painting as is understanding the Renaissance to the study of painting.”3

It was also a period of intense cultural creativity in the arts and a new door had been opened for the uneducated or amateur artist. Only the wealthy elite had painted before: they had believed it was an activity which was only valuable as a form of aristocratic self-cultivation. Their paintings were kept as national treasures and viewing of the scrolls was only for the aristocrats. Landscape Painting, nature and images of nature were now given greater importance in the late Yuan Dynasty. The Four Great Masters who led this change took refuge in and around Soochow. This time of less than 40 years 1 31 4-1 354, was one of new individualism and innovation. They were hermits high in the mountains where they communed with nature, using this crisis time to think write and paint a time of self development.

The situation of artists in Italy was very different from the Chinese artists. In Italy they had always been considered as the simple craftsmen of the lower classes working in guilds, without special merit and little attention was paid to the person’s name or any creative work the individual may have achieved.

The changing economic times of state and catholic church wealth, and new political powerful parties, brought the opportunity to impress and control the people.

Patronage by the church and state became the new way and a new door opened for the Italian artists. As few people could read, the art works were intended to educate and politically control them. The new door was open for talented artists, they could become influential and wealthy and the artists name could become famous in Italy.

The western artist was however not free to paint his own choice of subject. That would be dictated by the patron and if at any time he did not please his patron he could fall out of favour and possibly lose his reputation and therefore his ability to win commissions and earn his income.

China The Four Great Masters of the Yuan.

Returning to China the Four Great Masters they were recognized as men of courage and humility. They were friends who loved a debate and discussion over a glass of wine. Although on different spiritual paths they practiced the art of communicating on a philosophical level composing and adding their own insightful writings in poem form to the sides of their scroll paintings which were worked on silk, and fine hand made paper and painted with freshly ground black red and turquoise inks.

Huan Kung-Wang

Huan Kung-Wang (1269-1354) is known as the Impressionist artist, He painted evocations of the landscape with calm sensitive strokes. He was a scholar poet philosopher artist and musician. He was born 30 miles northeast of Soochow in Ch’ang-shu, at seven he was considered a child prodigy and was adopted, he passed easily the difficult Imperial examinations. Then he started his career with the Government in Soochow. While investigating irregularities in tax collection, he was implicated in a fraud case and imprisoned. Upon his release he became a professional diviner, wearing Taoist clothes, inferring his government career was now over.

In 1334 In Soochow he opened a Hall of Three Doctrines incorporating Taoism in its original philosophical form and some elements of Confucianism, and Ch’an Buddhism. The main study was of Hsing-Ming which is man’s inborn qualities and his destiny. Taoism in the Six Dynasties time had stimulated the idea of landscape painting and the idea of communing with nature.

In Huang Kung-wang’s last years he lived in the Fu-ch’un mountains west of Hangchow, where he did two of his most celebrated works at the age of seventy-two.The Stone Cliff at the pond of Heaven it was painted near Soochow on Mount Hua. ‘Dwelling in the  ‘Fu-ch’un ‘Mountains,  it was painted on a long hand scroll. It is one of the most influential landscape paintings in all of China’s history.

Huan Kung-Wang wrote the thirty six ‘Secrets of Landscape Paintings’ here is number thirteen.

‘Carry around a sketching brush in a leather bag, then when you see in some scenic place a tree that is strange and unique, you can copy it’s appearance then as a record. It will have an extraordinary sense of growing life. Climb a tall building and gaze at the spirit resonance of the vast firmament. Look at the clouds they have the appearance of mountaintops! When the ancients speak of Heaven opening forth pictures, this is what they mean’.4

Wang Meng

Wang Meng was known for his imaginary and prophetic art work. He was born in 1308 and died in prison in 1385. He was the grandson ofChao Meng-fu, the leading artist of the earlier Yuan days.

Wang Meng’s poetry was passionate and spontaneous his writings extremely critical of the laws and rules of bad government he was brilliantly able to express his philosophy in his own style of painting and poetry.

Impressed by his skill Hung-Wu, who became the Ming Emperor in 1368, invited Wang Meng to go to his retreat hideaway in Huang-hao-shan and this is the mountain often seen in his paintings. In 1360, at the age of 52, Wang Meng came down to live in Soochow rejoining the literary and artistic crowd. Having lived with the future Emperor, he was aware of his violent and controlling personality he realised that if he was made Emperor he could bring a bloody purge; which happened when most of the notable literati of Soochow were accused of being traitors and were put to death in 1385.

Wang Meng’s paintings understandably show feelings of resentment and anger. In 1366 at a great gathering of notable literati of Soochow he painted for his host ‘Dwelling in the Ch’ing-pien Mountains.  We see the tiny hermit figure meditating at the bottom of the dark over whelming rocky mountain creating a heavy brooding prophetic sense of tragedy. These are his instructions on nature painting explaining how to express ones feelings.


Wu Chen

Wu Chen (1280-1 354 ) the third great master was considered to be a Naturalistic artist. He loved living in the mountains, a natural hermit in the same way as the Italian St Francis of Assisi, his simple easy style focused on a more naturalistic records of topography and of man, animals, birds, and fish in nature, with small touches of humour in his paintings and writings.

Wu Chen’s painting of  Two junipers dated 1328 show trees full of survival strength with twists of growth that have been challenged by the stormy windy weather. I believe they express Wu Chen’s own response to the physical and mental storms of life. How he has allowed life to sculpt him, but not to stop his growth by accepting whatever challenge heaven had thrown at him.

In his painting ‘Fisherman he shows a man who is very aware of the time and his place in the landscape but who makes an informed decision to change direction. The tree bends over the water as if trying to capture and keep him, as he uses all his strength to return home. It is accompanied by this poem entitled Fisherman’s Song.


Ni Tsan

Ni Tsan (1301-1374) is the last of the four and the best known. He was recognised as a spiritual artist, with a bland subtle painting style which is easily recognised.

At the age of twenty seven on the sudden death of an older brother he became heir to the family fortune. He built a great library filling it with rare books and paintings. Famous and wealthy scholars came from all over China, they would drink wine and compose poems. He was proud and arrogant and extremely rude to those who he considered did not merit his friendship. He figures in many stories mostly about his obsession for cleanliness. This could be considered an outward sign of inner turmoil of consciousness.

One story tells how Ni spends the night with a famous courtesan Chao Mai-erh but because he passes the whole time in making her bathe over and over, the sun raises without any “dreams of Mount Wu” having occurred and Ni pays her for nothing.

At 40 years of age he started to change his life with the process of freeing himself from his wealth, political and social influence by carefully giving all his property and assets away and by breaking the ties with his debauched life.

Ni Tsan’s style of painting like his life’s assets had become less and less. He now lived by wandering in a boat on rivers, he paints abstracted landscapes with vast empty spaces. Paintings without people or exotic pagodas, or imposing mountains, and the shorelines have become less adorned. His style is clearly shown in ‘Woods and Valleys of  Yu-Shan’ a few bare trees and a hut in an austere landscape where the calm silence is undisturbed by Man.Ni Tsanalthough now leading a hermit life, continued to visit Soochow to discuss and write with his three friends about the new ways they were thinking and painting. Together they wrote: The Wen-Jen Painting System.

The Wen-Jen Painting System,

Written by The Four Great Masters Huan Kung Wang, Wang Meng, Wu Chen, Ni Tsan

  1. Individuality of expression the style mirrors the character of the artist.
  2. The inseparable nature of painting and calligraphy as expressed in the written picture and union of extensive inscriptions with picture. 3. Disinterest in the appearances of nature allied to the demand for a written equivalent to the natural form.
  3. Suppression of the decorative character of painting and hence a lack of interest in striking compositions.

The main achievement of these Yuan innovators is their concern with freely painting from the heart mind and soul as an expression of where the artist stood in his world. They must convey their own inner truth by painting in a way they had developed to express their own inner eye, the aim was to be free from the art critics and the cultural influences of their time. The four Great Masters paintings were not to be discussed as decorative or historical pieces. These were four men who shaped the pattern of the arts in China. The Wen -Jen painting system of the Yuan literati then and still now forms the theory of Chinese landscape painting.

The Italian Artists

Back In the Italy of Marco Polo’s childhood artists and craftsmen had not been known by name and had no influence or position in society. The greatly improved economy was the catalyst for change. Now we have the sort-after celebrity artist who was patronised by the wealthy Catholic Church, heads of State, and by the newly emerging prosperous powerful political bodies.

Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone was born around 1266 in a town called Colle he was from a poor rural family of peasant origins, and died age 70 in 1336. One story goes that Cimabue saw him sketching sheep and invited him to his studio, Cimabue became his mentor and gave him the tools and the platform to receive commissions. It is also thought he learned a great deal that from artist Roman Pietro Cavallini. In the Divine Comedy written by the Italian poet Dante he mentions Giotto, in the context of how earthly glory measured against eternity passes more quickly than a blinking eye; the book is about a journey which begins in a dark wood and near the end sees out of the wood, a lady picking flowers with which her whole path is embroidered.

Giotto was the first western artist to open up a new sense of space. His figures were placed in a spatial context for the first time. This was to lead him to receiving a vast amount of Church commissions for painting frescoes all over Italy.

In a sense Giotto was the master of the whole school of painting in Italy. His influence was that he changed the character of the Florentine school of painting and determined it’s direction during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century’.

Fresco is one of the most important techniques of painting. In the thirteenth century this type of painting was done by spreading a layer of plaster called arriccio on the wall. The artist then traced his design with a red ochre colour called spinopia, then over this was spread by his assistant another thin transparent layer called plaster finish, then came the artists colours as it came into contact with the fresh lime and the air, the colour dried and stained the plaster and became inseparable from the wall. Later Giotto developed the process of a life size drawing being made first on paper, tiny holes were then punched on the lines and then the cartoon was pressed against the wall for the carbon powder to be pressed over the holes to leave an outline on the wall. This is the same process I used for my silk embroidery in Soochow. I would draw and paint the designs and my assistant would prick the waxed paper.

Giotto was commissioned to paint scenes from St Francis of Assisi’s life. Giotto first studied the life of St Francis, who had chosen a hermit life in a forest in a small shack he made himself from the materials in the forest. Giotto’s admiration for St Francis is shown in the way he choses to paint him as a strong bold hero. Giotto brought life and emotion to the people’s faces he painted, just as St Francis did with his gentle loving and humorous personality.

Giorgio Vasari in 1 511 wrote of Giotto, painters owe to Giotto the same debt they owe to nature, which constantly serves them as a model and whose finest and most beautiful aspects they are striving to reproduce and imitate.

When Giotto painted his backgrounds they were no longer all gold, in the Byzantine style, they were well researched and full of delightful details that explained the story. Giotto had a great ability to respond to his commissions and with his studious nature of thinking things through before he began, he was able to paint so the viewer most of whom were illiterate had an opportunity to understand the spiritual message.

This was a far more approachable treatment of spiritual images than any artist before him. As we can see in Saint Francis Preaching to the birds.

In 1220 on a trip to Venice St Francis had stopped for a break in the countryside just outside the city, as he taught the joy of knowing the love of Jesus the marsh birds sang along with him. His joy and passion for nature was often expressed: when finding an abundant field of flowers, or seeing animals and birds, he would sing and thank God for everything. This was a main part of the St Francis legend his love of all creation, including trees, the earth, and the sky. Giotto’s frescoes of St Francis are amongst the first paintings that include landscape, with their trees, mountains, skies, and clouds.

Giotto is considered to be the greatest of all Italian Gothic painters, because he was the one who made the break with the stiff conventions of the Byzantine style of painting. He chose his own creative path of visionary art building on his past experiences of sketching nature.

He was extremely studious always going for new ideas to nature herself and so he could rightly claim to have had nature rather than any master as his teacher.

In this painting of St. ‘Francis Stigmatization of St Francis is the vision spoken of by St Francis to his faithful assistant brother Massero, when Jesus appeared to him under the guise of a crucifiedSeraph.The angel impressed the stigmata of the cross on St Francis. The Seraph angel has 6 wings, and Giotto’s fresco is the only one I know to have painted correctly the number of wings on a Seraph angel.

Giotto’s landscape and city backgrounds of his frescoes were a totally new way of Italian realistic expression seen here in ‘Renunciation of Worldly Goods [fig 8.] In this painting When St Francis preached to the Venicians to change their lives to leave behind their most valued possessions, their wealth and political power and to take up humanity and humility for a simple life in nature, few followed.

I believe Giotto’s greatest accomplishments was his ability to create people that expressed emotion in their faces. In this story of ‘Renunciation of Worldly Goods’it is easy to read because of the communication of strong emotions through facial expressions and body language it shows St Francis semi nude in the act of stripping, visually making his point of giving up wealth and political influence, perhaps the first performance artist!

‘Many accounts tell of Giotto’s integrity and love of life and his great sense of wit and humour. His people included nudes the first to be seen in an Italian painting.’

Giotto also shared his great sense of humour with his important patron the King of Naples.

‘When Robert the King of Naples was with him one day enjoying Giotto’s company as he painted, the King said “Giotto, if I Were you I would leave off painting for a while now as it’s too hot.”

He replied “And so would I, If I were you”!!!





Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Ambrogio Lorenzetti was born in 1285 and died with his artist brother Pietro, in Sienna of the Black Death of 1 348 along with most of the artists of Sienna. He was especially influenced by the paintings of Giotto di Bondone.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti created the Allegory of the Good and Bad government and it’s Effects on the City and the Countryside, as the first landscape in European painting his highly complex composition for the promotes the image of the government defining what good and bad government can do.

It is to be seen in the Palazzo Pubblico in Sienna Italy. It was commissioned by the government of Nine, these were the merchants and bankers who governed the city for about seventy years from 1287-1355. This was one of the most happiest times for the Republic of Sienna. A time of affluence, when the whole city was enriched with works of art.

The painting shows this time in a variety of symbolic ways. The very long fresco is in two parts the effects of bad government and the effects of good Government, my focus is on the good government. This second part focuses on a richly dressed man on his horse leaving the city of Sienna. He rides into the freedom of the wide open landscape. He symbolises the good government that has brought freedom from fear of the city’s external attack, and freedom from internal fear as all the city’s criminals have been hung. The tradespeople are working happily, the women dance and sing, and a marriage is taking place, weddings and dancing symbolising peace and love.

In the background detail of the fresco are small figures riding through the peaceful countryside in the landscape, inferring that the bandits have all been hanged by the good government; whereas in the Chinese landscape paintings a small learned figure living peacefully in nature infers that the person is free from political power.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s allegorical fresco painting of Good and Bad Government is a commissioned political manifesto of his day. His keen observation of people’s lives and activities echo Marco Polo’s social anthropological abilities.

Artists challenged and changed.

The thirteenth century was a time of political and economic challenge and change. The response of the aristocratic intellectual artists of China was to accept this humbling time.

To accept the teaching of Confucius when government is bad it is time to head for the hills, and the teaching of Lao Tse to empty themselves spiritually.

Although Gengis Khan had expelled them from the Mongolian Government and his grandson had invited them back, they had made a decision. They would no longer be controlled by the Government of the day to be instructed where to go and what to do.

They had time and freedom to paint as they wished, they now knew because of the difficult times they had experienced that this was above wealth, power and political status. The Four Great Masters accepted this creative hermit lifestyle. As the desires for political power and wealth diminished and as their ability to respond to each other in communication and encouragement grew, a way opened for them to go deeper into their own Journey as artists.

In Italy the challenge and change for the artists was very different.

This was an exciting trading time for the Italians busily importing and exporting, establishing their trading on the silk route with China.

Now was a new time of international economic affluence for the Catholic Church and the governmental political parties who started to recognise the worth of artists and how to capitalise and market the influence of the celebrity personality artist.

Now the way was open for the talented artist to receive commissions from rich patrons and he could become famous and wealthy, but under these conditions he was completely controlled by the Church and state.


  1. William Marsden, F .R.S &C. with a map The travels of Marco Polo a Venetian in the Thirteenth century. being a description. by that early traveler. of remarkable places &things.inthe Eastern parts of the world. Translated from the Italian, with notes .[ Cox & Baylis London & Printed for the author in 1818.] pg. 237
  2. William Marsden, The Travels of Marco Polo 1818 pg 236
  3. Sherman E.Lee & Wai-Kam Ho Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)[ The Cleveland Museum of Art Cleveland 1968] pg 3 4.T’aoTsung-i, Huan Kung-Wang’s Secrets of Landscape Paintings preserved in the miscellany Cho-ken lu, Lpublished in China in 1366] a collection of thirty -two short notes. pg 87
  4. James Cahill. Chinese Painting [The world Publishing company London 1960] (including Huan Kung-Wang ‘Secrets of Landscape Paintings) the following relevant to the theory and practice of painting in the Yuan period. page 148.
  5. James Cahill Chinese Painting [The world Publishing company London 1960 ]pg 144
  6. James Cahill. Hills beyond a River [The World Publishing Company London 1976] pg 114
  7. James Cahill. Hills beyond a River [The World Publishing Company London 1976 ]pg 115
  8. James Cahill Hills beyond a River( Wen-Jen painting)[ The World Publishing London 1976 ]pg 238 and pg 51
  9. Giorgio Vasari Lives of The Artists vol 1. [Penguin Books Ltd London 1987] pg 57

1 2. Bruno Dozzini Giotto The legend of St.Francis in the Assisi Basilica. [Editrice Minerva Italy 1992.]

  1. Giorgio Vasari Lives of The Artists vol 1. [Penguin Books Ltd London 1987] pg 61
  2. Giorgio Vasari Lives of The Artists vol 1. [Penguin Books Ltd London 1987] pg 68


Bartoli Mesy and Barara Latini with illustrations by Monica Verdiani Explore & discover Siena. [pub by Betti editrice Siena 2001]

Benedetto L.F The Travels of Marco Polo, design by Keith Martin Krampen [ pub Andre Deutsch Ltd Holland 1931] with 25 illustrations in full colour from a fifteenth century manuscript in the Bibliotheque Nationale,Paris.

Bruce Cole. Giotto & Florentine Painting 1 280-1 375 [ pub by Harper and Row Publishers New York 1976.]

Dozzini Bruno Author Giotto The legend of St Francis in the Assisi Basilica [Pub Editrice Minerva 1992]. (most of Giotto’s paintings are from here) Cahill James Hills beyond a River [pub The World Publishing Company London 1976] (including-7 illustrations)

Cahill James Chinese Painting [pub The world Publishing company London1960]

Cahill James Confucian Elements in the theory of Painting [pub by A, Wright Standford New York1960]

Cahill James Fantastics & Eccentrics in Chinese Painting [pub by New York Publishers 1967]

Clark Kenneth Landscape into Art [pub by Readers Union London1953 ] Cunningham Lawrence Brother Francis An Anthology of writings by and about St Francis of Assisi Edited by Lawrence Cunningham, [ Published by Pyramid for our Sunday Visitor, inc. London]

Dalrympole Bruce major Clarence In the footsteps of Marco Polo A journey overland from Simla to Pekin [William Blackwood and Sons London 1 906 ] Fremantle Richard Florentine Gothic painters from Giotto to Masaccio.A guide to painting in & near Florence 1 300 to 1450. [Published by Martin Secker & Warburg London 1975]

Dubosc Jean Pierre Mostra d’arte Chinese Exhibition Cat.[pub by Palazzo Ducale Venice 1954 ]

Hayden Maginnis B.J Painting in the Age of Giotto A Historical Revaluation [Pub The Pennsylvania State University Press Pennsylvania 1997]

Keith Elizabeth Eastern Windows An artist journey of China [ pub Hutchinson and co ltd London 1928.] (2 wood cuts of Soochow)

Hook Brian The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of China [ published by Cambridge University Press London 1982. ]

Marsden William,F.R.S&C. with a map The travels of Marco Polo a Venetian in the Thirteenth century, being a description,by that early traveller,of remarkable places & things,in the Eastern parts of the world. Translated from the Italian, with notes [ Published by Cox & Baylis & Printed for the author London in 1 81 8. ] Manuel Komroff Contemporaries of Marco Polo [pub Jonathan Cape London1928.]

Munson Ultica & Williams Masters of Landscape East & West Exhibition [ Cat Ultica 1 963 Proctor Institute ]

Mariacher Di Giovanni Testi Mosaici Di San Marco [pub Ardo edition d’arte Italy 1992]

Osborne Richard Philosophy for beginners [Pub Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc. London 1992]

Osvald Siren Chinese Painting Leading Masters and Principals, 7 vols [pub by London publishers 1956-58 ]

Perkins Dorothy Encyclopaedia of China ,[ pub by Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers London 1999.]

Sherman Lee and Wai-Kam Art Under the Mongols:The Yuan Dynasty (1279- 1368) [Pub House Chinese by The Cleveland Museum of Art Cleveland 1968] De Carle Arthur Sowerby Nature in Chinese Art [ Published by The John Day Company London 1 940 ]

Sherman Lee Literati & Professionals four Ming Painters [ pub by CMA Bulletin L 111 Jan 1 966 ]

Toynbee Arnold Half the World the history & culture of China & Japan [Pub by Thames and Hudson, London 1973. ]

Muller Joseph-Emile The Little Library of Art [published Methuen & Co Ltd London 1945.]

Wang Jia- Nan, Cai- Xiaoli, Dawn Young, A Complete Oriental Painting Course [Published by Aurum Press London 1997.]

Waley Arthur The Travels of an Alchemist:The journey of the Taoist Ch’ang Ch’un from China to the Hindukush at the summons of Chingiz Khan. [ pub by George Routledge & sons Ltd London 1931.]

Weyhe 2000 years of Silk Weaving [pub in New York 1 944 ]

Wu Hsiu Ching-hsia, Kuan lun-hua,Chueh-chu Poems on Chinese Paintings. [ 1 824 Shanghai 1947 reprint ]

Youde Edward and Herbert Franz Schuman Economic Structure of The Yuan Dynasty [pub by Harvard University Press Harvard 1956 ]


Acknowledgments are due to the curators and administrative staff of the following galleries and museums, art dealers , library’s and web sites. The Palazzo Pubblico and the Civic Museum of Siena; St Marks in Venice Italy; The British Library and The Victoria and Albert Museum, and library and The City and Guilds School of Art, and library. The British Museum; The Courtauld Institute, London; Soochow Institute of Embroidery; China. and The Art Museum, Hong Kong; Friends of the Arts, Hong Kong; Plum Blossoms Gallery, Hong Kong; The Art Museum, Beijing; The Art Museum, Shanghai; The Chinese Art Museum, Taiwan; Royal Ontario Museum of Art, Toronto Canada. Web Gallery of Art. Web museum Paris.



The Ko Ku Yao Lun ( 1387) 2nd edition 1459.


From June 13-15, 2005, the Percival David Foundation for Chinese Art (PDF) held its 23rd Colloquy. As Colin Bundy, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, explained in his opening remarks, the PDF is one of the little-known treasures of the University of London, associated with the Department of Art and Archaeology.[1] It has held an annual/biennial Colloquy on selected aspects of Chinese art, archaeology and connoisseurship since 1970, and published a corresponding series of proceedings in substantial, peer-edited volumes.

The subject of this year’s colloquy was unprecedented for the Foundation, which is more used to addressing its attention to porcelain, bronzes, Chinese decorative style and so on – the more traditional facets of academic art history. As a matter of fact, the colloquy was all but unprecedented full-stop.

Europe has certainly never seen an academic gathering devoted to the material culture of the Chinese book with this number of presentations, all of a remarkably high standard – three days, six plenary sessions, twenty presentations.

It was both exhilarating and exhausting. Stacey Pierson, tireless organizer on behalf of the PDF and curator of the Foundation’s collections, expected seventy people, including presenters, to attend. In the event, about 90 participants registered and she suspects that there were gate-crashers.

Hanshan Tang Books produced a special list of one hundred and fifty related titles in response to the colloquy. We printed one hundred copies and had disappointed scholars clamouring for more.[2]

Curation of the colloquy’s programme was the responsibility of Craig Clunas, Percival David Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, and Ming Wilson, Senior Curator in the Asian Department at the V&A.

The latter provided intelligent continuity throughout the colloquy as well as herself presenting a full paper. Sadly, Clunas was unable to be physically present due to a serious, debilitating bout of flu. From his sickbed he composed an introductory address, read by Stacey Pierson.

Clunas is known for an approach to art history that is informed by contemporary critical theory, and he and his fellow convenor’s agenda for this colloquy reflected such engagements. Apart from the famous ceramics of its founder’s collection, the PDF also holds a small collection of his Chinese books, including a number of some rarity and interest.[3] As Clunas pointed out, Sir Percival David’s sole publication, Chinese Connoisseurship, is, in fact, a book about a book, a translation with commentary, which Sir Percival based on the text of an early Ming period edition he acquired in 1942, the Ge Gu Yao Lun of Cao Zhao.[4] 


Clunas implicitly signalled pertinent theoretical aspects of Sir Percival’s moment of authorship – its self-referential, intertextual and transcultural character – and, at the same time, he highlighted and made concrete the vital importance of the colloquy’s goal: giving scholarly attention to the art of the book per se, as a necessary contribution to our general understanding of material culture.

More specifically, Clunas reminded contributors that their focus was not so much the ‘art’ of the book (as if some books are ‘art’ and others are not) but the Chinese book’s ‘artifactuality.’ He wanted to hear papers on, ‘the diverse ecology of the book in China,’ and called for new engagements of Chinese print culture with what is still a Eurocentric tradition of book history.

He asked that participants reassess the idea of a ‘golden age’ of Chinese printing, both the ‘pedestalization’ of Song period editions and the predominance of the late Ming period for illustrated work.

He required us to extend our connoisseurship to the Qing period and beyond. Finally, he asked the colloquy to break down some of the questionable distinctions between book as manuscript and book as print object, a relationship that plays out very differently, East and West. In response, significant contributions to all these issues and more were provided by the many speakers. Clearly, some contributions will be of greater interest to antiquarian booksellers and collectors than others, and the following remarks will tend to expand on those contributions.

The first papers of the colloquy addressed a couple of underlying themes, the relationship of manuscripts to printed books and the influence of one form on the other, especially the influence of Chinese calligraphic and orthographic traditions on the design and production of printed matter.

Professor Maggie Bickford of Brown University, however, raised a question concerning the bibliographic classification of illustrated manuscripts. In art history such items are often treated like paintings, their texts bracketed for the purposes of appreciation and interpretation. Bickford pointed to an early tradition which categorized such items – often in scroll form – as books, conveyors of information intended to be read rather than simply gazed upon, enjoyed and absorbed as visual art.

Martin Heijdra of the Gest Library, Princeton (one of the West’s great collections of fine and rare Chinese material) and Chen Hongyan from the National Library of China both addressed Chinese calligraphy and its role in book design. Calligraphy is China’s highest visual art, a practice, simultaneously, of writing pure and simple, and also, as it were, of ‘old mastery.’

Calligraphy in China is much much more than thecraft of beautiful writing that it is, chiefly, in the West. The characteristics of this art derive from the Chinese system of writing, a source of perpetual and often delusional fascination for people in the West. Its characters, ‘spelt’ out in integral, more or less regular-sized units, represent what we call words or, at least, significant parts of words.

Cultures that use the Chinese system need thousands of distinct characters to compose their texts, make their inscriptions, and produce their books. The handwriting – calligraphy – which constitutes a manuscript has different regularities and rhythms compared with its western counterparts.

In brief, these are more richly developed in visual terms, and examples are valued because of their association with great artist-scholars. The effect of these conditions on book design and production are contradictory and paradoxical. The forms of characters in books printed from carved woodblocks may be valued because of their association with a hero of calligraphic culture or, in rare cases, because they were actually written out by their author-artist as a model for the block carver(s).

On the other hand, the necessity for consistency of print design when using an ‘font’ of thousands of characters requires a narrowing of the range of what we would call typographic variety. There are less than half a dozen Chinese ‘book faces,’ if we discount the insignificant variations produced by carvers, or by other media of production. Chen Hongyan’s presentation concentrated on calligraphy’s artistic contribution to the book in China, citing examples of direct intervention by author-artists.

Martin Heijdra took on the subject from a more detached and analytical perspective, giving us important new ways of characterizing the typographic design of Chinese books and, in fact, pointing out that the relationship of this design to calligraphy has made it difficult for Chinese connoisseurs to appreciate and make use of typographic distinctions, because,

for example, certain character forms in books must be praised and assessed for a calligraphic aesthetic that runs counter to a comparatively down-graded print aesthetic.

Perhaps it is necessary to recall, even in this context, that antiquarian Chinese print culture differs from that of the West in at least one absolutely fundamental aspect. Until the introduction of modern printing techniques in the nineteenth century, the dominant form of Chinese book was printed from woodblocks, each carved with the reverse relief representation of the equivalent of an entire opening.

The culture that invented moveable type (traditionally attributed to Bi Sheng 990-1051) did not deploy it, other than exceptionally, until it became socio-economically viable to do so, after the introduction of lithography. Western missionary printing of Chinese texts (albeit chiefly Christian texts) constitutes the advent of typography as such, in our planet’s other centre of culture. SOAS’s Professor of Chinese History, Tim Barrett, exposed a few of the extraordinary ironies of this situation. For example, he proposed that for westerners to think of Gutenberg as the inventor of printing is rather as if we thought of Diesel as the inventor of the train.

That would imply that James Watt, the steam-driven industrial revolution, and the rail-transport manifestation of a messy, long-outmoded technology might be forgotten or discounted. Woodblock printing in China was the engine of a worldwide cultural revolution and yet this fact is still, in real sense, invisible to us in the West.[5] Its influence is still difficult for us to properly gauge. When Rowan Watson of the V&A was asked, from his expert Western print history perspective, to explain why there was no comparable European tradition of full-page, full-opening woodblock printed books, no clear insights emerged from an otherwise enlightening gallop through ‘the long fifteenth century.’

It is a shame to be unable to do more than cite some of the colloquy’s presentations without giving them due comment and context. Thankfully, the proceedings will be published and its readers will be able to pursue in greater detail what I can only list. Frances Wood of the

British Library gave a talk on the early history of the British Museum/British Library collections, revealing some of the mysteries behind the acquisition and cataloguing of early Chinese items which should be provenanced but for which Library records are, perhaps inevitably, somewhat problematic and mysterious.

Kevin McLoughlin spoke on images of Guanyin – the Bodhisattva of Compassion – in 17th-century illustrated works, and Anne Farrer took on the relationship between book illustration and sheet printing in the early 18th century, contributing to the further study of one of the glories of illustrated colour printing in China, the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, a marvellous book – parts of which are not uncommon in the West – with a spectacularly difficult publication history. In a three-paper session where books and objects came into explicit relationship, Peter Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong spoke about the illustration of ceramic techniques in books about China’s most famous kiln site, Jingdezhen.

Ming Wilson gave us fantastical insights into the fantasies of connoisseurs who produced books about objects – jades in her case – that never existed but which Chinese culture needed to document as if they did exist. Philip Hu took us to an extreme of the book as material object in a fine exposition on books made, literally, of jade. These are chiefly court-commissioned memorial tomes, but they can be extensive and they do evoke the question, ‘When is a book not a book?’ To complete the list of papers that I feel guilty not to comment on properly, there was a fine presentation by Wang Chenghua on an important moment of printing using collotype illustrations in the early 20th century. This was for mass-produced publications which significantly documented and popularized Chinese art in a manner that also contributed to a sense of national identity at the time. Finally, Yuan Xiyang gave us a brief history of modern Chinese book design in its crucial formative period from 1919-1937.

A significant number of the presentations emerged from the contemporary critical academy in the United States. These were, generally speaking characterized by a theoretically-informed approach capable of relating the specifics of print culture to history, sociology and even politics.

This is welcome in the context of Chinese studies, where scholarship has often been somewhat unworldly. The colloquy seemed, in a sense, to follow on from the publication of four significant monographs in the field, and two of their authors were present.[6] 

Cynthia Brokaw spoke on commercial book production in the ’19th-century hinterland,’ while Robert Hegel addressed a specific case of illustrated fiction from the Ming-Qing transition period. Brokaw’s co-edited book, Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China – apart from further work of her own and of Hegel’s – contains essays by two other colloquy participants.

Joseph McDermott spoke on the high cultural regard of the Chinese for all things inscribed. This regard is manifested socially in the formation of grassroots associations of ordinary people, who join and volunteer to collect and respectfully dispose of waste paper that is written on.

Tim Brook and Kathlyn Liscomb both addressed illustrated works, the first as a historian trying to make out what was being represented in the panoramic illustrations produced for published records of Buddhist monasteries in Ming period Nanjing; while Liscomb brought forward questions concerning the representation of literary figures as culture heroes, and what this signified for different sectors of Chinese society.

Julia Murray spoke about a particular imperial-sponsored illustrated text in ‘The Provenance and Evolution of Jiao Hong’s Yangzheng Tujie,’ a paper that combined analysis of the function and positioning of this printed instrument of imperial edification with the more historical critical aspects of connoisseurship such as occasionally concern even the pragmatics of bookselling.

It was Sören Edgren of the Princeton-based, Research Library Group-led Chinese Rare Books Project, who provided us with the presentation most likely both to goad booksellers and get their juices flowing, since he was speaking directly to questions of the authentication and dating of Chinese rare books.

Many of the actual examples he discussed are virtually inaccessible or all but beyond the dreams of avarice. Edgren is primarily concerned with what the Chinese call ‘shanben’ (fine editions).

Such books are very rarely seen in the West, even more rarely traded, and they are not, generally speaking, exportable from mainland China. In this part of the world, we are now fortunate if we are able to handle what the Chinese call ‘putong guji’ (ordinary early editions), which may occasionally, however, include examples of Qing period illustrated material.

This can be attractive and collectable, even for bibliophiles who do not read Chinese. Edgren’s remarks on authentication and dating are, nonetheless, generally applicable, quite apart from the shock and amusement they are able to provoke. In broad terms, the connoisseurship of Chinese books strongly resembles that of the West.

Careful research, attention to sources of information and standards of description – all of these are vital. Edgren is deeply involved with the issues of providing transcultural standards for bibliographic and physical description and any associated research. The Chinese tradition in the field is sketchier and less well-defined than it is for us, more dependent on the personal authority of scholars and collectors than on attention to the material itself. By this, I mean that provenance and associated supporting text, in the form of colophons and inscriptions, can, in the Chinese context, count for as much in valuing (in both senses) a book as, for example, the presence or absence of a cover page (Chinese equivalent of title page) or the correspondence of a particular exemplar with previous bibliographic records (with or, more likely, without physical description). In China the connoisseur/collector had a large measure of control over the fate of rare editions. Perhaps this is best illustrated by Edgren’s answer to a question from the floor. ‘What about binding? Wouldn’t a study of the history of Chinese binding assist with provenance and dating?’ Initially, Edgren answered with a simple, ‘No.’ Of course, there is a history of binding in China with dateable techniques and, in rare cases, dateable use of materials. However, generally speaking, the binding of a Chinese book was and is a moveable feast, even more so in China than in the West. Collectors are less likely to be concerned about preserving an old binding. They would prefer to protect or restore a binding to enhance or set off the text and its printing. This and the fact that Chinese bindings are much easier both to disassemble and reproduce, gives them far less value for authentication.

What is certain is that we share, with all peoples, a genuine and pragmatic sense of the value of fine, early books, and this translates to both connoisseurship and commerce. As such, it also translates to venality and deceptive practices that interfere with, precisely, the aims of scholarship underlying this PDF Colloquy. Edgren gave us some extraordinary examples of what were clearly fraud and also other practices that might seem fraudulent to us but are less clearly dishonest in their specific cultural context. On the one hand, the integrity of a copy is clearly damaged and a fraudulent attempt is made to disguise this fact for the purposes of trading or exchanging the copy. In other cases – arguably more common in China than in the West – efforts are made by collectors and others to restore the integrity of a text, for honest reasons that may, nonetheless, go unnoticed or disregarded. Examples of the latter practice can be highly elaborate, the equivalent of scholarly textual skin-grafting, or extraordinary, super-human feats of facsimile reproduction. Back in the realm of the forger, Chinese bibliographic deception can be both spectacular and amusing. Edgren showed a slide with a wonderful example of a not uncommon practice. The character for ‘End,’ or ‘Finis’ may be added to the physically final leaf of a damaged copy. In the example Edgren showed, the dissembler had gone on to cover the added character with a seal impression and an artificial burn mark to render it still legible but plausibly obscured by accidents of ownership and wear. In an even more elaborate case, a dishonest dealer holding volumes three, four and five of a properly twelve-volume work was able, because of the nature of the Chinese script, to change the characters for ‘3’, ‘4’ and ‘5’ in the book’s headings to words meaning ‘first,’ ‘second’ and ‘last.’

The overall message of the colloquy was an energetic and enlightening call to engage with the scholarship and material culture of the Chinese book. Whilst fully according with these aims and sentiments, Edgren explicitly raised another, related warning cry, familiar to booksellers and their clients. Take a good close look at that example of material culture in front of you. ‘Buyer Beware!’

John Cayley



The album of Hsiang yuan-p’ien (1561)

Look ming ceramic history2






The Tsung She’ng Pa Chien (1591)

Portrait of Huang Tao-chou’ 1644-1645
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
121.5 x 94.2 cm. (47 7/8 x 37 1/8 in.)
‘Portrait of Minister Huang Shih-chai (Tao-chou), respectfully painted by Tseng Ch’ing of P’u-t’ien.’
Artist’s seal:

Tseng Ch’ing (1564-1647), tzu P’o-ch’en, was born in P’u-t’ien, Fukien province, but at least from 1607 onward he lived and worked as a painter of portraits in the vicinity of Nanking. [A painting done jointly with the Nanking master Hu Tsung-hsin in 1607 is recorded in Lu Hsin-yuan: Jang-li-kuan Kuo-yen Lu, 1892, chapter 27, p. 17a. Tseng Ch’ing consistently referred to himself as from Fukien, but it should be noted that the T’ung-hsiang Hsien-chih, quoted in the Che-chiang T’ung-chih p. 3253, says that Tseng’s father was from Min or Fukien but later moved to Ch’ing-chen, near Chia-hsing in Chekiang province, where Tseng Ch’ing may thus have been born. In either case, nothing is known at present about the first forty-three years of Tseng’s life. Tseng’s tzu, Po-ch’en, literally means ‘Wave Official’ and was used originally by Chuang-tzu to refer to those in charge of aquatic creatures; it later came to mean a Minister of Yen Wang, Ruler of Purgatory. The meaning it held for Tseng Ch’ing is still unknown.] According to the Wu-tsa-tsu, ‘He used the brush with not the slightest vulgarity. His portraits are as large as two or more feet and as small as several inches, all of them exceedingly lifelike. Relying on his skills he wandered the four quarters, amassing as much as a thousand in gold.’ [Quoted in the very useful booklet on Tseng Ch’ing by Chou Chi-yin: Tseng Ch’ing de Hsiao hsiang Hua, Beijing, 1981, p. 15.] His patrons included some men who served as officials but a majority were members of the burgeoning middle class, some of the best-known artists, famous scholars, and major land-owners of the period. Tseng’s social relations with these patrons thus varied greatly, and it seems that in some contexts he was considered a friend. In most cases, however, he was regarded more as a superb technician, and his various biographers have thus concentrated mainly on description and analysis of his techniques and approach to portrait painting.

According to the Wu-sheng Shih-shih, ‘…His manner and style were cultivated and disciplined, and his moral outlook most admirable. Wherever he went, he would use divination to decide on a dwelling place, which would have an encircling verandah and inner rooms and be placed in an ethereal environment, and everywhere he painted portraits ….’[ Wu-sheng Shih-shih, Hua-shih Ts’ung-shu edition, volume 2, p. 1029.] This account suggests that Tseng travelled a good deal, moving from city to city and town to town, in each of which he would establish a more or less temporary .headquarters where he would meet with clients and work on their portraits.

‘In portraiture there are two schools. In one, strong ink is used for the bones (the linear structure) , and after the ink structure is complete, color is applied, selecting facial coloring on the basis of the age (of the sitter), his spirit already being embodied within the ink structure. This is the school of Tseng P’o-ch’en of Min (Fukien) …. ‘[Chang Keng: Kuo-ch’ao Hua-cheng Lu, Hua-shih Ts-ung-shu edition, volume 3, p. 1286.] An excellent example of this subtle approach is Tseng’s ‘Portrait of Wang Shih-min,’ painted in 1616 when Wang was home in mourning for his wife, hence the Buddhist garb and pose. Wang’s youth—he was then 24 years of age—and his sensitive nature are clearly visible in the facial depiction, manifested mainly by line but also color, while the garment and posture are suggestive of Wang’s position in society. As was noted by the 17th century T’u-hui Pao-chien Hsu-tsuan, ‘… While obtaining spirit via brush and ink, (Tseng) matched this to the drapery patterns, in everything using what was appropriate…’[T’u-hui Pao-chien, Hua-shih Ts’ung-shu edition, volume 2, p. 869.] Some early critics in fact were taken as much by Tseng’s ability to suggest the social and economic status of his patrons as by the miraculous verisimilitude of their faces in his portraits: ‘…Capturing images like a mirror, he wonderously embodied their spirit and emotion. Applying color deeply and richly, his dotted pupils engendered a sense of life. Whether painted on paper or silk, the gaze (of his sitters), their frowns and smiles, are shockingly lifelike …The dignity of carriages and caps (ie., officials), the refinement of hills and valleys (ie., scholarly recluses), the cultivation of the womens’ quarters, and traces of what is transcendant (ie., Buddhists and Taoists) are all transmitted in his drawing. Beauty and ugliness are only in the (outer) appearance, while when face-to-face (with one of his portraits), heart and soul are comprehended and both oneself and the other are forgotten …’ [Wu-sheng shih-shih, op.cit., p. 1029-30.]

The same text goes on to note of Tseng Ch’ ing’ s technique: ‘…To each of his portrait images wash was applied in several tens of layers, and only when he had created a personality did he stop. That he walks alone in the groves of art, influencing everyone both near and far, is not by chance.’ [Ibid.]  This description of Tseng’s approach, which accords with that given above, may be contrasted with that of the second school of portraiture mentioned by Chang Keng: ‘…In the second school, light ink is used for the outline and tracing the general position of the Five Sense Organs (ear, eye, nose, mouth, and body), and then everything is washed with opaque color. This is the school method of Kiangnan painters, and Master Tseng was familiar with it…’[Chang Keng, op.cit., p. 1286-87.] Tseng Ch’ing is often held to have been influenced by the Western style of painting known through the efforts of the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), who settled in Nanking in 1599 and opened a church displaying painted and sculpted images in 1605. Oil paintings were done with thickly applied, non-translucent pigments, and the Chinese use of fen-ts’ai washes, to which color and lead-white had been added, were an approximation of that almost three-dimensional and certainly opaque effect. This so-called Kiangnan school style is perhaps best represented today by the numerous low quality anonymous Ch’ing dynasty portraits of equally anonymous ancestors. Tseng Ch’ing’s major innovation, then, was to apply the translucent washes of traditional Chinese portraiture in multiple graded overlays that acted to model faces in terms of light and shadow without obscuring the underlying brushwork that was held to convey character and personality.

Tseng Ch’ing is said to have trained a son and over forty disciples in the art of portraiture and some of these must have assisted him during his later years. According to Chang Tzu-yu, one of these students, ‘…During his late years his eyes were unable to focus on details. For a monk at the Ox-head Temple (in Nanking) he painted a portrait of the eighty-first abbot and then died..’[Quoted in Chou Chi-yin, op.cit., p. 14.] At least by 1624 Tseng had begun to work in cooperation with other artists, who would add appropriate backgrounds to figures painted by Tseng, and by the end of his life we must assume that others were contributing even to the main subjects of the paintings. Tseng’s inscription on ‘Hu Erh-tsao’ of 1624 does not make mention of such assistance but the complexity of the natural environment greater than in any other work done by Tseng alone—suggests that he was in fact aided by someone more experienced than he in painting landscapes.

The same conclusion can be reached about the present ‘Portrait of Huang Tao-chou,’ which was painted when Tseng Ch’ing was about eighty years old and only two or so years before he died. Huang Tao-chou (1585-1646), an important scholar and official, is here portrayed rather formally, wearing his court hat while seated frontally in a large chair with his hands folded symmetrically within his sleeves. The garden setting features chrysanthemums, which were likely intended to call to mind the poet T’ao Ch’ien (365-427), who resigned after only 83 days in office and lived the rest of his days cultivating flowers as well as poetry and music in private life. Tseng’s almost contemporaneous portrait of the sickly Shao Mi (1592?-1652), who eventually sucumbed to a lung disease, uses these same props to suggest a life apart from the world of official cares.

Huang Tao-chou, however, was not in any position to think about cultivating either flowers or his moral character, for at the time this portrait was painted he faced a crisis that would result in the downfall of his dynasty and his execution by the victors. Huang had been an important member of the reformist Tung-lin political party and in 1640 he had been flogged at court and imprisoned before suffering the additional punishment of being banished. Although Huang was invited to return to court in 1642, he declined and began to lecture on philosophy in Fukien, his native province. A portrait of Huang was painted two days before his fifty-nineth birthday, March 7, 1644, by Tseng Ch’ing, presumably while both were in Fukien. Huang here is dressed rather casually, and, seated behind an imposing rock, he seems almost in hiding. On April 25th Peking fell to the rebel Li Tzu-ch’eng, a new court was established in Nanking and the emperor recalled Huang Tao-chou to office, appointing him on October 19, 1644, to the presidency of the Board of Ceremonies. After arriving in the new capital early in 1645, Huang discovered that the newly formed government was under the control of Ma Shih-ying (1591-1646/7) and that his own authority was only nominal; he therefore left the city again on March 19th and thus was not present when Nanking fell to the Ch’ing army on June 19th.

Although the present painting is not dated by inscription, Tseng Ch’ing gives Huang’s official title as shang-shu or Minister, rank 2a in the civil bureaucracy, the post he gained in mid-October of 1644. Tseng Ch’ing may have returned from Fukien to Nanking with Huang Tao-chou, and the painting could have been done during the journey, but it seems more likely that the portrait was done in Nanking, during the early months of 1645, before Huang left the unhappy city again. [A portrait of Huang Tao-chou waiting at the palace gate for the early morning imperial audience was painted by Ts’ao Yen in spring of 1645; see Shen-chou Ta-kuan volume 2 and Liang Chang-chu: T’ui-an So-ts’ang Chin-shih Shu-hua Pa, 1845, chapter 17, pp. 19a-20a.] In comparison to the portrait of a year earlier, Huang is portrayed here as being larger and more forceful, as was appropriate considering the public nature of his responsibilities. No longer a teacher, and more exposed in every way, Huang also seems more inner directed, more protective of himself, and this too seems natural considering the continuous strife and turmoil that characterized political life in Nanking at that time, even in face of the oncoming Manchu armies. Huang was captured in 1645 and remained steadfast to the end, refusing to abandon his loyalty to the Ming and attempting to starve himself before being executed. Some part of his admirable character and will are manifest in the present portrait, and we too can conclude about Tseng Ch’ing that ‘it is not by chance that he walks alone in the groves of art




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