Kwek Hong Png Wing
Ceramics are among China’s greatest technological and artistic achievements. They include a wide range of objects made from fired clay, from simple pots to delicate porcelain vessels. For much of the world, ceramics represented the very idea of China. In imperial China’s trade with other cultures, ceramics were the second-most valuable export, after silk.
The mountains and valleys of China were blessed with an abundance of raw materials for making ceramics of high quality, including special clays and mineral pigments. For centuries, Chinese kilns perfected the techniques for firing and glazing ceramics, and the organisational skills to mass-produce objects. Chinese porcelain was considered a marvel: a pure white material that was thin enough to transmit light but durable enough to serve piping hot foods in.
The method of making and firing porcelain was for a long time a closely guarded commercial secret that helped the Chinese monopolise the trade of porcelain wares. Japan only cracked the code of firing porcelain around the early 17th century, and then Europe did so in the early 18th century. Chinese potters developed a wide range of decorative techniques to appeal to different markets, from the imperial court to overseas consumers. Kilns in various parts of China specialised in different forms and colours, and they would take special orders from overseas clients.
China, Jingdezhen, 1723-35
Porcelain, diameter 49.5 cm, height 9 cm
Gift of Mr Saiman Ernawan
Chrysanthemums symbolise autumn. The painter of this superb dish used soft, delicate brushstrokes inspired by the naturalistic style of the artist Yun Shouping (1633–1690), a specialist in painting birds and flowers. Called fencai (soft colours), this palette became the defining porcelain style of the Yongzheng emperor.
The variety of materials used for making coloured enamels expanded at this time, with Jingdezhen potters making their own ingredients through experimentation, as well as learning from European glass and metal enamelling techniques. These colours allowed artists to create a variety of designs on fine white porcelain.
Ginger root-form teapot
China, Yixing, late 20th century
height 21.3 cm
This teapot has been modelled as a tall piece of ginger growing from the earth. The seals on the cover indicate that it is a collaborative effort by Lu Wenxia 陆文霞 (born 1966) and her husband, sculptor Lu Jianxing 卢剑星 (born 1958). The skill of the potters is evident in the highly realistic shape and texture of the ginger. This piece shows how Yixing potters innovated and challenged norms of how objects should look.
The county of Yixing, in Jiangsu province, is known as the "Pottery Capital" of China. The hills around Yixing are endowed with rich clay deposits. The high malleability of this fine-grained clay enabled Yixing potters to create all kinds of ceramic designs and forms, as attested by this quirky teapot.