Sunday, January 11, 2009

Antique Market

I received a crash course in the history of Chinese ceramics at the antique market here in Jingdezhen. Surrounded by many, many contemporary pottery galleries & showrooms, hundreds of people congregate each Monday morning to barter for vessels and shards of Chinese pottery. Laid out on blankets, people display their pieces and try to get the best price for them, and they are usually highly overpriced. Often they are shown in conjunction with little knickknacks like those handy little multi-tool plastic pieces of junk, magnifying glasses, old Chinese coinage, Mao's little Red Book, socialist posters, a range of ceramic periodicals and books, and other pieces of junk that are passed off as "antiques." It doesn't take long to see what is made to look old versus the authentic ones.

Huang Fei parried a lot of scoffs from sellers that he was advising me on suitable prices, but he didn't mind. As we left, he felt that it was a good day with a lot of good deals. These four pieces ran a total of 280 yuan or 41 dollars. I'll be going back next week, there was this old poster with Marx, Lenin, Stalin & Mao that I must have. I'll have to put it up next to a Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain poster and see how they compare.

Tang Dynasty, 618-907

Wu Dai (Five Dynasties), 907-960

Song Dynasty, 960-1297 (I don't know if it is Northern or Southern-- yes, it makes a difference)

Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368

I didn't pick up any Ming or Qin dynasty pieces, but I plan to next time. Most of the work that was shown was of these two dynasties and according to Huang Fei, they are the most sought after by Chinese collectors. Contemporary decoration techniques also reference these two dynasties quite a bit. They were also the two that were hardest for me to distinguish. Predominantly all in blue & white, one must pay attention to the character of the brush stroke, the hue of the blue color, thickness of the ware, and character of the glaze amongst other things. I'm not too good at it. What was interesting was the prices that the sellers were asking for the shards from Ming & Qin versus the whole forms of Song or Tang; Ming and Qin were much higher. Albeit the pieces I purchased have their defects, otherwise they would most likely be in a museum; I was drawn to the forms and their loose, human qualities. Over time, the forms are much tighter and more machine like; impecable precision with painterly decoration. In watching the buyers and the replicated ware that is constantly produced in Jingdezhen, it is interesting to see that many Chinese are more interested in the surface decoration on heavily manufactured, precise wares. It seems like something is lost in the picture, maybe Mr. Mao's sweeping hand has something to do with it.

Huang Fei and his student. Behind them lay (or is it lies... or maybe just lie. Mr. Coppage would be very disappointed right now) the Chang Jiang (River).

Huang Fei's favorite American author is Hemingway and with my beard he thought I looked like him, so I tried to act like him. Is this how Hemingway was? Well it is now for two Chinese ceramists.

Also here is my mold maker making my molds most merrily.

Furthermore, the water got turned back on today. A joyous occasion. Cold weather caused a pipe to burst, leaving us with only a trickle of cold water. And I added some "gadgets" to the blog. Tell me if they suck.

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