Tang Ying master of porcelain commemorated


The memorial to Tang Ying at Jingdezhen Ancient Kiln Museum. Photo Paul Harris

Tang Ying (1682-1756) remains to this day one of the great masters of Chinese porcelain and is commemorated at the Ancient Kiln Park in the porcelain capital of Jingdezhen.

He was born in Mukden in north China (now known as Shenyang) during the Qing era. He is also known as Jun Gong or ‘Wo Ji Old Man’. In 1728, the sixth year of the Yongzheng period, he was appointed as an Associate at the Royal porcelain plant. He supervised the kilns until the 21st year of the Qianlong period. During the period of his supervision of the kilns, he developed an intensive knowledge of the techniques of manufacture of porcelain. The best of his examples are still identified as ‘Tang Kiln porcelain’. He wrote several authoritative books about porcelain, including Tao Cheng Chronicle, Porcelain Making Illustrations, and Stories of Porcelain Makers. He also left behind a store of documents which today serve as primary source material.

Dreweatts sale reminds us of the role of the crane in Chinese art

465845-13  A fine looking pair of very large crane censers come up at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury’s Asian Sale at Donnington Priory on May 19. The auctioneers have catalogued these items particularly well and are, rather modestly, estimating them at £6-8,000. They seem sure to do rather better than that.

‘A pair of cloisonné enamel double crane censers, each group finely modelled as a large crane and young standing on an elaborate champlevé and cloisonné enamel rockwork- shaped pedestals interspersed with blooming flowers, standing on tall legs detailed with cylindrical bands, the smaller crane with one leg slightly bent, their long necks naturalistically curved, the taller crane grasping a double-peach sprig in its pointed beak, the bodies and feathers realistically detailed in black and white enamels within gilded borders, with the red crests wings covering the hollow body, 150cm high 清 御制掐丝珐琅双鹤香炉一对 成交价

Cranes are an important component of the Chinese decorative system which is based on the use of images whose auspicious symbolism was conveyed by their intrinsic qualities and the homophonic nature of the Chinese language. The underlying principle to such a system was the belief that all natural phenomena and things on Earth were an expression of Heaven’s will towards the human conduct. Auspicious events, therefore, were reproduced in writing or images in China and believed to function just like their physical counterpart and thus perpetuate their benign effects. In this way, buildings, tombs, gardens, paintings, ceramic, lacquer, metal wares and textiles were decorated with flowers, birds, animals and other auspicious symbols.

Cranes have a long-lived tradition of connection with immortality beliefs in China. As birds with a long life span, they were associated with longevity, immortality and wisdom, especially following the rise of Daoism from the Han dynasty. We may recall the flying cranes appearing on the domed ceiling of the tomb of Wang Chuzhi of the Five Dynasties and the high-ranking tombs of the Liao, and the frequent occurrence of cranes in relation to the miraculous rebirth as immortal beings in vernacular literature dating from the 12th century.

Cranes were also praised for their ability to dance to music and described in the Ruiying tu of the sixth century BC as gathering around the legendary Yellow Emperor as he practiced music on Kunlun mountains, accompanying scholars as they played music in Tang and Song paintings and appearing in official celebrations and gatherings. Accompanying the rites, music provided a moral and physical definition to a dynastic rule. In this context, therefore, cranes were interpreted as heavenly indicators of the emperor’s benevolence and sage governance.

It may not be incidental that the word for crane is in fact homophone with the Chinese word for harmony he. Cranes became even more closely related to a successful reign/emperor during the prosperous period of Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r. AD 1100-1126) as the search for auspicious images increased and the Xuanhe ruilan ce, comprising some thousand volumes recording auspicious sightings, was compiled. During this time, cranes appeared as pennants and employed as part of the imperial regalia that accompanied many official affairs on the court.

Cranes also appeared in many Song court paintings. Cranes above Kaifeng, in particular, has been attributed to or commissioned by Emperor Huizong. The work depicts twenty cranes appearing in flight above the Golden Gate to the Imperial Palace on the 3rd day of the Lantern Festival – believed to be 26th February 1126) as if sent by Heaven to sanction and celebrate one of the most glorious days of Huizong’s reign when the court was at its highest splendour and the emperor was united with his subjects as they wished him longevity for the year to come.

It may therefore be little surprising that cranes were also ubiquitously found at the court of the Qing emperors, especially that of Qianlong (AD 1735-1795), emperor known for his virtuousness and appreciation of antiquity. In this instance, cranes not only appeared in paintings but even three-dimensionally as components of miniaturised immortal palaces made of jades, agate and other precious stones and in greater size flanking the imperial throne, such as the one presented here. Standing on an elaborate cloisonné stand, not only does this creature serve a highly visual appealing purpose, but in much the same way as the glorious emperors of the past, was surely employed by the Imperial House of the Qing as a powerful symbol embodying the contemporary brilliance of the Chinese Empire.

For the occurrence of cranes in the arts of the Qing dynasty see Pine, plum and cranes painted by Shen Quan (AD 1682-1760), Cranes against Sky and Waters by Yu Xing (AD 1692-after 1767), and the miniature landscape representing the immortal island of Penglai in gold, pearls and precious stones, all part of the Imperial Collection at the Palace Museum in Beijing and illustrated in the Royal Academy catalogue China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, 2005, figs 268-269. For an account on the interpretation of auspicious images see Jessica Rawson, The power of images: the model universe of the First Emperor and its legacy, in Historical Research 75, May 2002, p.123-154 and The Auspicious Universe, by the same author, in China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, Royal Academy, 2005, p. 270-305. For an account on the interpretation of cranes at the court of Huizong see Peter Sturman, Cranes above Kaifeng: The Auspicious Image at the Court of Huizong, in Ars Orientalis, 1990, p. 33-68. For the occurrence of cranes during the Han dynasty see Anna Seidel, Post-Mortem Immortality or The Taoist Resurrection of the Body, 1987.’

There is said to be slight wear to the cloisonne enamels and gilding but otherwise they are in good condition. They seem bound to occasion substantial interest.

Unusual Chinese art image 59 Cat on a hot tile roof

Chinese cat on cool tiled roof

Sorry, but we don’t know who took this utterly charming picture. Now you know why Chinese roofs were made in this undulating shape. We have a soft spot for felines and this photograph absolutely captures the afternoon’s languorous cat nap. It was found floating around on Tumblr (the picture, that is to say). If you are the photographer do contact us so that we can give you the credit for this wonderful image.

Lyon & Turnbull presents China Insight@ The Burrell


Forever sharp marketeers, Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull have got together with Glasgow’s famous Burrell Collection for a weekend of events April 25-6 centred around the Chinese art market. It’s sure to be a hit with collectors, dealers and aficionados of Chinese art.

The location is as prestigious as the event is promising: The Burrell Collection, Pollok Country Park, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow G43 1AT

These are the bullet points:

  • Lyon & Turnbull partners with The Burrell Collection for the first time to raise money for Glasgow Museums
  • One-off opportunity for lucky few to tour the stores led by Curator Dr Yupin Chung
  • World experts make their Scottish debut

L&T and The Burrell will produce a two day fundraising event centred around the art and marketplace of the 21st Century’s most rapidly developing sector: Chinese art. A subject area close to the heart of Sir William Burrell, proceeds from the events will be donated to support Glasgow Museum’s, in particular the valuable work at The Burrell Collection.

The weekend’s activity is tailored to suit appreciators of Chinese art, as well as owners and collectors; Saturday will feature specialist lectures and guided gallery tours, while on Sunday there’s an opportunity to get your own artwork or antique appraised by experts including top specialists as seen on The Antiques Roadshow.

Councillor Archie Graham, the Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “This promises to be a fascinating weekend, where not only can you find out more about Chinese art – one of Sir William’s greatest interests – but there will be special tours and an opportunity to find out if that old painting or trinket in the attic is actually a lost treasures. We’re delighted to be working with Lyon & Turnbull on this event at a time when the city has just committed to the next step in transforming the Burrell Collection with a major refurbishment and redisplay of the gallery – creating a home worthy of the world-class status of Sir William’s incredible gift.”

Perhaps the biggest coup is the opportunity to win a one-off guided tour of the Burrell Collection stores with Dr Yupin Chung Curator of Chinese & Far Eastern Civilisations. Taking you beneath the award-winning Burrell Collection building, the lucky few will benefit from Dr Chung’s unique insight into Sir William Burrell’s commercial success and meticulous method of collecting.  There are 12 places to be won, and anyone that buys a ticket to China Insight will automatically be entered into the ‘store tour’ raffle announced at the event’s opening at 11am on Saturday 25th April.

The lecture programme that same day will feature leading specialists from the Chinese Art world. Jacqueline Simcox, published author and world authority on Chinese textiles will speak on Chinese Imperial and court costume. Jacqueline has previously lectured at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal Academy and the British Museum and will be making her debut in Glasgow. Joining Jacqueline will be Nixi Cura co-founder of the Arts of China Consortium at New York University who will speak on Chinese painting. Nixi is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow. Lee Young, Head of the Asian Art department at Lyon & Turnbull and Dr Yupin Chung, Curator of Chinese & Far Eastern Civilisations at The Burrell Collection will represent their respective institutions on stage.

On Sunday, the Burrell Collection main atrium will be buzzing around valuation tables where members of the public can bring in their own art and antiques to be valued and appraised. Lee Young & Steven Moore, as seen on the Antiques Roadshow, will head the team of specialists from Lyon & Turnbull with expertise including – Chinese & Japanese works of art, as well as items of other origin from jewellery & silver, to paintings and ceramics. All items will be seen. This type of event often throws up hidden treasures.


Lyon & Turnbull auctioneer Paul Roberts at their highly successful December 2014 sale in St Neots, Cambridgeshire Photo Paul Harris

Opening times:

Saturday 11am – 5pm

Sunday 11am – 4pm

Entry fees:

Saturday Talks & Tours

Day ticket £10, call 0141 287 2591 to book or visit the

Burrell Collection. All proceeds go to The Burrell Collection

*Purchase of a Saturday day ticket will automatically enter you into the ‘store tour’ raffle announced at the event’s opening at 11am on Saturday. Lucky winners will take the tour at 4pm that day.

Sunday Valuation day

£5 for first item and £1 for items thereafter.

All proceeds go to The Burrell Collection







Ana Perez Grassano paints Chen Dapeng sculptures

6 Grassano and Chen Dapeng with the first painting in Songjiang, Shanghai last week

French-Argentinian artist Ana Perez Grassano has just returned from Shanghai, China, where she has painted several of the sculptures of Chen Dapeng, the important Songjiang-based sculptor. We have previously written about Grassano and her cooperation with Chen Dapeng. She is based in Paris and first met Chen Dapeng during his exhibition at Le Carousel du Louvre in November 2013. Chen Dapeng has recently announced that he is to exhibit at this years Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair in London (November 2-8). His exhibit is being organised by Paul Harris Asia Arts. Our picture below shows Grassano, Harris and Chen Dapeng after making the announcement in Shanghai on March 29. SONY DSC

Auctioneers Bonhams have confidence in China market

Increasingly international in outlook, UK-based auctioneers Bonhams (www.bonhams.com) look to the future of the China market with confidence. Speaking today with chineseart.co.uk at their Beijing HQ in the city’s exclusive Chang An Club, which houses many top businesses like the Porsche motor company, Bonhams’ China representative, Ms Yu Hongyu, said, “The boom here is far from over. The market may have slowed a little but the economy still allows new people to get into the market. People are still getting rich. That includes many young people who are making their money both online and offline.”


Paul Harris pictured with Ms Yu Hongyu, Bonhams’ China representative, today at Beijing’s Chang An Club. Picture Sulee Harris

Yu Hongyu set up Bonhams’ office in China one and a half years ago. It is not the company’s intention to set up as auctioneers in China itself. “There is a well established network of small local auction houses here, as well as Sotheby’s and Christie’s who are running occasional auctions.”

Instead, she sees it as her role to identify the growing number of Chinese collectors and bring to their attention the Bonhams’ sales which might be of interest to them. Inevitably, that means the company’s important Hong Kong sales and, later this month, she is organising previews in both Shanghai and Beijing of the company’s upcoming Hong Kong May auctions, which range from Fine and Rare Wines, Cognac and Single Malt Whiskies to Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy, as well as Classical, Modern and Contemporary Ink.

Although the Chinese economy has experienced a slowdown, Yu Hongyu says there is always a market in China for “good pieces”. There is a lot of new money about in China. “The acquisition of a good piece of art is a way of saying there is more to life than simply making money’.”

In the Chinese lexicon it all about face. A person who appreciates culture and art  demonstrates that he or she is a person of real substance far beyond the narrow constructs of an ability to make money.

SONY DSC The Chang An Club building in the centre of Beijing houses Bonham’s China office. Picture Paul Harris

Not just any old bicycle – it’s Ai Weiwei’s!

From Paul Harris in BeijingSONY DSC

Ai Weiwei’s bicycle, Caochangdi Art Village, Beijing.  Photo Paul Harris

It’s not just any old bicycle, it’s Ai Weiwei’s. As such it is treated with some reverence around here. Around here is the Caochangdi Art Village: a burgeoning centre of art in the suburbs of Beijing.

The tyres may be a little flat but, it is said, Ai Weiwei comes out every morning and arranges newly picked flowers in the basket. As such it qualifies as a priceless work of art.


Ai Weiwei lives the other side of the high wall with enormous steel gates guarding the compound where he lives and works. Of course, as we all know, he is pretty much constantly engaged in a war of wits with the Chinese government. our guides tell us the CCTV cameras are placed there by the authorities to record any movements in and out the compound.

One of our number picks up a flower from the basket to inhale its scent, thereby violating a priceless artistic object. It is rapidly replaced, in more or less the same place, hopefully.

The plaque on the wall announces (Number) 258 FAKE. Another little Ai Weiwei joke.

SONY DSC Outside no. 258

Porcelain Orchestra symbolises achievements of Jingdezhen


The Jingdezhen Porcelain Orchestra  Photo Paul Harris

Unique in the world, the Porcelain Orchestra of Jingdezhen symbolises the achievements of China’s so-called ‘porcelain city’, Jingdezhen where porcelain is on every street and every corner. Daily, in the grounds of the Ancient Kiln Museum, nine young ladies serenade visitors from a platform built out on a lake. All their instruments are made from high-fired porcelain: only the very best clay is used in the manufacture of their flutes, bells and stringed instruments. The sound produced is particularly resonant, clear and precise.


Photo Paul Harris

When you go to Jingdezhen don’t miss out on this experience. The girls perform an especially striking version of Jingle Bells in their everyday performances!


Photo Paul Harris

Master calligrapher shows at Jingdezhen airport departure lounge

Yu Bin Jingdezen airport (1)

Porcelain art on the walls of Mr Yu Bin’s snack bar, Jingdezhen airport.

Photo Paul Harris

The Chinese master calligrapher Zhao Ji Ai Xinjue Lo currently has an impressive show at an unlikely venue: the snack bar in the departure lounge at Jingdezhen airport! The show of his classic works, presented in the form of large porcelain plaques, has been organised by busy snack bar owner Mr Yu Bin, who clearly has an eye for art as well as his excellent chowsa (Chinese dumplings).

A large format, hardback book accompanies the exhibition at the airport of China’s great porcelain city. Here porcelain is to be seen everywhere.

Yu Bin Jingdezen airport (2)

Mr Yu Bin (left) with Ms Sun Yumei of Chinese Art in Scotland (www.chineseartinscotland.co.uk) at his snack bar at Jingdezhen airport.

Photo Paul Harris

We meet a talented decorator of porcelain in Jingdezhen


As we reported yesterday, this week we are in the porcelain capital of China, the city of Jingdezhen. Jingdezhen is synonymous with the word porcelain here in China. Porcelain is everywhere: in the form of everyday street furniture, porcelain shops and showrooms (the number well into five figures) and craftspeople skilled in the art of porcelain manufacture who work for large enterprises and, indeed, work away on their own.

Today, we had the privilege to meet a young man whose painterly decorating skills far exceed those of many of his older fellow artists. Liu Zhen works in a backstreet of Jingdezhen in a small rented workshop.


Generally, Liu Zheng works on a small scale: he decorates small objects like teacups in the most exquisite detail. His subjects are usually traditional Chinese ones drawn from the ancient history and culture of China. Some are rather more tongue in cheek, like his erotic teacups depicting couples in glorious union! However, he also tackles larger works upon commission. The porcelain panel above was commissioned from him and depicts no less than 87 Chinese gods. Each one is depicted in quite extraordinary detail finely picked out by his amazing brush power. He showed us it in its almost-finished stage: shortly it will be delivered to his customer.


However, he seems rather more comfortable working on a smaller scale. His teacups are breathtaking. On the left above is a teacup which has been decorated prior to firing. The cup on the right has been fired and is ready for sale. Also, in our top picture, he shows a smaller porcelain plaque which he is still working on. You will note how the application of glaze and the firing changes the colour dramatically from a browny-grey to achieve full blue and white effect.

He takes all the credit for his own work. Although it might pass for a Ming or Qing piece, he always adds his own mark (unlike many producers here in Jingdezhen). This can be seen to the base of the cup, right. He is confident enough in his own work to represent it as his own.

SONY DSC An older piece lies on his desk

That having been said, like all modern artists in China, they draw upon their own ancient culture and we see an old dragon-decorated cover on his desk. Real craftsmen in today’s China continually seek to emulate and surpass past masters.