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The Treasures Of Mr I. C. Su 3

The bonsai pot collection of Mr. I. C. Su from Taiwan is among the finest in the world.


Men Cai ceramics.

Old knowledge says that Men Cai was first produced between 1465 and 1487.

In the last years two Men Cai pots from the Xun De years of the Ming dynasty were discovered in Tibet. This discovery proves that Men Cai was already invented between 1426 and 1435.

The production method goes as follows: on the green body lines are painted and fired at 1300° C. Then diverse glazes like red, yellow, green and purple are applied onto the semi-finished pot and are fired in a second kiln at 700 – 800° C. Men Cai is a type of porcelain that conjoins onglaze with underglaze. The body is relatively thin, the colours are bright and shining.

In the Chinese history of porcelain development, Men Cai is a type of coloured porcelain with a high artistic value. Due to its rareness it is highly appreciated as art.

In the summer of 1999 a Men Cai pot from the Ming dynasty realized a price of 29,2 million HK$ at an auction in Hongkong. This shocked the whole market of antiques auctions.

These pieces of art were auctioned in London in the summer of 1999. They are pots with flower motifs from the Qianlong period.

Owner of the pot and photographs: I.C. Su

Translation of the Chinese descriptions: Li Yang

Text revision: Peter Krebs

English translation: Heike van Gunst

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The „Kiln Ru“

In the Chinese history of ceramics the porcelain of the Song dynasty is considered to be from the golden times.

The „Kiln Ru“ is the best of the five most wellknown kilns (Ru, Guan, Ge, Jun and Ding) of that time. From 1106 to 1086 - 20 years – the „Kiln Ru“ was in use. Geographically the „Kiln Ru“ was located in Qing Liang Si, Bao Fu Xian in the province of He Nan. As this town belonged to Ru Zhou, the kiln was called the „Kiln Ru“. It was a state-owned kiln which during the Song dynasty was only available for the emperor and his family.

The glaze Tian Qing is a basic glaze of the „Kiln Ru“. Similar to the „Kiln Chai“ from Wu Dai the surface of the glaze is matte and the glaze layer crystal clear.

Where the glaze was applied thinner or at the rim somtimes the colours red and pink are visible. The reason  is that there are many agate stones in Ru Zhou. When agate stone is used in the glaze, iron from the red agates oxidates in the air. This chemical reaction produces the special colours.

In the history of ceramics the „Kiln Ru Ceramics“ are unique. The emperor Song Zhonghui aspired for a culture of refinement. Under his influence the ceramics of the „Kiln Ru“ were very popular. Because of this the „Kiln Ru“ was considered the best among the five most wellknown kilns.

This piece was auctioned in New York.

Owner of the pot and photographs: I.C. Su

Translation of the Chinese descriptions: Li Yang

Text revision: Peter Krebs

English translation: Heike van Gunst

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White porcelain

White porcelain consists of white clay and a white glaze. White glaze can be transparent or semi-transparent.

We distinguish between good quality clay and suboptimal clay. On good clay you can use transparent glazes. On suboptimal clay you need to use opaque white glazes, to achieve the same effect (pearl white).

The porcelain made of suboptimal clay and opaque white glaze is called Bai You Ci (porcelain with white glaze). If the suboptimal clay consists of ceramics, then it is called Bai You Tao (ceramics with white glaze).

During the firing process there must be no metal oxides neither in the glaze firing nor the clay firing process. As clay is a product of nature, it always contains ferric oxides. In history it was nearly impossible to remove all the ferric oxides. When these ferric oxides burn under different conditions, diverse shades of white result which have certain names.

This piece was auctioned at Christie's in London.

Owner of the pot and photographs: I.C. Su

Translation of the Chinese descriptions: Li Yang

Text revision: Peter Krebs

English translation: Heike van Gunst

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Cha Ye Mo (literally: tea, end  / rest, abbreviation in the following: CYM)

CYM is a glaze that originally resulted from the crystallisation of ferric salts (iron-magnesium silicate).

During the firing process saturated mineral dissolutions develop which crystallise when they cool down. The „black glaze“ (dark glaze) was originally developed during the Tang dynasty. It was discovered accidentally.

The colour of the glaze is yellow-green, like tea. The longer you look at it, the more interesting it seems. This glaze is called CYM.

In the Ming dynasty there was an imperial kiln (Chang Guan Jao). Since then this glaze is also called the glaze of the Chang Guan Jao. In the Qing dynasty the colours of the main glazes were: yellow fish, green snakeskin and „yellow dotted“. During the times of Yongzheng and Qianlong CYM had its high point of popularity.

In the products of that time, the colour tended more to green and that is why they were also called „green crab pots“. As the colour of CYM was dark and heavy like that of bronze, CYM was used to imitate bronze devices with coloured glaze.

This piece was made during the Yongzheng period. On the bottom side the date of production was imprinted. Very special is the use of both the „green crab“ glaze and the „purple golden“ glaze. This is very rare and very valuable. 

Owner of the pot and photographs: I.C. Su

Translation of the Chinese descriptions: Li Yang

Text revision: Peter Krebs

English translation: Heike van Gunst

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Bamboo flower pot.

Bamboo, chrysanthemum, apricot and orchid are the four „gentlemen“.

In Chinese cultural history these four plants stand for four positive character qualities. Bamboo represents positive male ideals like charm, grandeur, loyalty. Since the Tang and Sung dynasty the bamboo is especially popular. 

Yao and Shun were two wise and kind emperors of the traditional politics history. According to history, the emperor Shun had two wives which he loved particularly, Er Huang and Nü Yin.

When emperor Shun died, both women were so sad that they broke down crying at his grave (and died). 49 days later bamboo sprouted from the soil and on its leaves the tears of the women were visible. This bamboo is called the bamboo of the empress.

This piece was auctioned at Christie's in Los Angeles. The painting shows the upright growing bamboo all around the pot. The bamboo is lemon-yellow in combination with the colour of coffee. The tears of the empresses are also visible. This tells the above story. The bamboo has the good virtues of the men. The two empresses of the Shun emperor cried at the grave and because of this the bamboo with the tears sprouted.

This pot is shown in a book („Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs“, Tokio 1974, page 33, by CAS Williams).

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Owner of the pot and photographs: I.C. Su

Translation of the Chinese descriptions: Li Yang

Text revision: Peter Krebs

English translation: Heike van Gunst