Book Review

Identification and Appreciation of Chinese Antique Pots

(Zhong Guo Gu Peng Jian Shang in Chinese phonetics)

Chief Editor: Wei Jin Shen

Haitian Publisher, 289 pages, 2004

ISBN 7-80697-611-6/J.20

This is the most comprehensive book to date on antique Chinese bonsai pots.  It is a large format book, lavishly illustrated with several hundred antique pots and printed on heavy weight glossy papers.  The book comes with an embroidered cloth hard case, giving it a classical Chinese book appearance. 

The editors took on a tremendous task photographing hundreds of pots from over 30 private collectors and the collections of over 20 museums and botanical gardens, such as the Suzhou Lingering Garden and Humble Administrator’s Garden, both World Cultural Heritage sites.  The photographs are very clear with neutral backgrounds. Nine experts contributed to chapters tracing the history of Chinese pot making from the Neolithic to modern periods; their classifications, identifications, and how the pots were dated based on their styles, clay, glaze, drainage holes, and decorations such as appliqués and painting styles.  The appendices illustrated various types of feet, drainage holes, potters’ marks and a comprehensive list of potters and their names used in marks.

This book illustrates pots from the late Ming (early 17th century) to the cultural revolution period. The majority of the illustrated pots are Yixing Zisha (purple sand) pots, both glazed and unglazed.  Smaller sections are devoted to Shiwan (Guangdong) stonewares and Jingdezhen porcelain pots.  A few pages illustrate pots made from marbles.  Yes, the Chinese do carve out pot for tree planting from a single piece of marble! Most of the pots illustrated are high quality collector items, however, many more common pots are also illustrated making the photos useful references for learning the styles of the various periods, and to some extent helpful for identification purpose.

This book is written entirely in Chinese. Therefore, the texts will not be useful to non-Chinese readers.  On the other hand, out of the 289 pages, 210 pages are full color illustrations of pots with dimensions given in cm.

To assist non-Chinese readers who consider owning this book, I translated the book contents with their page numbers for easy reference.

Table of Contents Page
Historical Development of Chinese Penjing Pots 1
Classifications of Chinese Pots 17
Identification and Appreciation of Chinese Antique Pots 27
Examples of Chinese Antique Pots  
         Zisha Pots (Late Ming) 41
         Zisha Pots (Early Qing) 53
         Zisha Pots (Mid Qing) 83
         Zisha Pota (Late Qing) 133
         Zisha Pots (Republic Era and Contemporary Pots) 159
         Glazed Pots and Shiwan Pots 189
         Ceramic Pots 219
         Stone Pots 251


Types of Feet Used in Chinese Antique Pots 257
Types of Drainage Holes in Chinese Antique Pots 258
Chronology of the Ming and Qing Dynasties 259
Names of Artists and Trademarks in Zisha Pots 267
Marks of Artists and Trademarks in Zisha Pots 273
Yixing Zisha Pot Making Techniques 279
Jingqiang Stone Pot Making Techniques 285
References 289


The Book

Examples of the illustrated pages

Late Ming Dynasty Pots

Early Qing Dynasty Pots

Mid Qing Dynasty Pots

Late Qing Dynasty Pots

Republic Era Pots

Glazed Pots


Articles by Hoe Chuah, USA

Translation: Heike van Gunst