Deconstructing Chinese Antique Porcelain
Porcelain emerged in China as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.), making it the world’s earliest porcelain-producing country by far. Porcelain is not only a profound invention of ancient Chinese people, but also a powerful contribution to human civilization from the Chinese nation.
Since the 17th century, Chinese porcelain has been transported around the world by sea, and China gained a reputation as “the country of porcelain,” so much so that the material is called “china” in many English-speaking countries.
The Song Dynasty (960-1279) fostered a boom in the ancient Chinese porcelain industry, during which time porcelain kilns were constructed across the country. With contrasting strong local flavors, the Guan, Ru, Ge, Ding and Jun kilns were dubbed the “Five Famous Kilns” of China at that time.
Compiled from the manuscripts written by Ms. Fan Dongqing, one of the earliest discoverers of the Ru Kiln, the book Deconstructing Chinese Antique Porcelain describes the styles, features and identification tips of 13 representative ancient ceramic kilns in the Tang (618-907) and Song dynasties including the “Five Famous Kilns.” The publication also includes pictures from various aspects of discovered pieces, historical documents, archaeological materials and excavation work.
It should be noted that the porcelain incense burner with a lid in the shape of a deer holding a Lingzhi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) featured on the cover of this book is owned by a private collector in Beijing and had never before been displayed to the public. The piece has only been partially catalogued as part of the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing.
The publisher of the book has also created a 720-degree 3D interactive panoramic image to enable readers to enjoy the exquisite ware in detail by scanning a QR code on the cover.
Lu Chenglong, a research librarian, deputy chief of the Antique Utensil Department of the Palace Museum and director of the Chinese Society for Ancient Ceramics, penned the preface of the book, in which he called it an authoritative and credible source on ancient Chinese porcelain.
He also noted that Ms. Fan has been studying porcelain for most of her life and produced a massive volume of notes and manuscripts through hard work. Therefore, the book is not only informative but also easy to understand, making it well worth reading and studying.
Fan Dongqing was formerly director of the Ceramic Research Department and research librarian at the Shanghai Museum and remains a member of the Shanghai Cultural Relics Identification Committee. She now serves as a consultant with the Shanghai Office of China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd. and an invited expert with an art auction program of the China Business Network under the Shanghai Media Group.
While living in the United States in the 1990s, she worked as a consultant for the Chinese Art Department at Sotheby’s, chief appraiser of the Orientalist Art Department at Christie’s in New York and special researcher at the Brooklyn Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington and the University of Maryland Art Gallery.
“This book ends at the Song Dynasty, but there are so many more stories related to ancient Chinese porcelain that I must continue to share them,” Fan said.