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The Treasures of Mr I. C. Su (1)

Old Bonsai Pots from the collection of Mr I.C. Su

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

China has one of the world's most outstanding art traditions. In the western countries, its art has been collected and copied for centuries. People have been interested in Chinese art for a very long time but few have tried to unterstand its true spirit. Chinese artworks have been appreciated and collected but the intentions of the Chinese artists are very difficult to translate into our language.

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It is a kind of symbolic language that has developed specially in China. To understand it you have to learn all about Chinese life. For centuries very hard conditions have determined the every day life of people from a day labourer or farmer to a senior official. Art has become a way to express the great importance of harmony and peace during those hard times.

For me as a potter it is most important to go back to the origins of the task that fills a big part of my life: the creation of bonsai pots.

Kun-tsan, a famous zen painter, said: “To understand the nature of painting you have to climb mountains and follow the rivers back to their origins. Only then you can create your ideas.”

The themes on the Asian pots derive from religion and popular belief. The real and imagined world are expressed in signs and symbols. Happiness, wealth and success should be bestowed upon the owner of a pot painted with the according symbols. A depiction of the seasons, of plants or animals were a tribute to nature.

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This old bonsai pot from the collection of I.C. Su from Taiwan is a great testimony of those times. The painting on the unglazed pot has been applied without using a template, with fast brush movements which seem almost modern.

It is amazing to learn that this pot was created during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). It expresses youth and freshness. The pot has been painted with a dark brown, almost black engobe. Water, mountains, animals and plants are a pure tribute to nature. The picture composition on the front shows water, small islands and a little rowing boat.

Peter Krebs

This article has been published in the swiss bonsai magazine “MENSCH UND NATUR”.

Translation: Heike van Gunst

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Meander



To me this pot is one of the most beautiful in the collection. Unfortunately I have only seen it on a photograph. How much would I appreciate to touch it and try to understand it with all my senses. This is the pure enjoyment of art for a bonsai pot enthusiast.

The very feminine body of the pot consists of a bronze-like, black-brown clay. The pot rests on high cloud-shaped feet and on the upper half a dragon ornament meanders around the pot.



Those stylized dragons of the Ming dynasty rest upon a thunder meander which is repeated very tiny and most delicately carved on the upper rim. In very early Chinese writings thunder is called the “laughter of the sky”. For timid people it can also mean the “anger of the god in the sky”.

Peter Krebs

This article has been published in the swiss bonsai magazine “MENSCH UND NATUR”.

Translation: Heike van Gunst

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Among Chinese ceramics you will sometimes find very unusual pot shapes, like this one, naturalistically imitating an old pine .

The image of the tree is strong and powerful, the prominent bark is fissured and flaky. In a cavity there is a twig with little pine cones.

This pot was made by Jiaqi Chen during the Ming dynasty 1368 - 1643 AD.

The purple-brown clay is still world famous today. The clay and origin is Yixing.

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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Landscape painting is the most important type of painting in Chinese history. Viewing it you feel transferred into a real landscape and experience unique nature.

With landscape painting, art is integrated into bonsai design and demonstrates the beauty of nature.

The painting on this pot is extremely exquisit and it shows the landscape at the lower reach of the Yangtze.  The painting style is that of the Wu school at the end of the 15th century.

This pot is extremely valuable and precious, it is one of the most beautiful pots in Mr. I.C. Su's collection.

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