Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Glittering Night Cup - Yeguang Cup of Jiuquan, Sichuan Province


The Yeguang Cup, literally "the Glittering Night Cup," is a special jade craftwork from Jiuquan in the province of Gansu in Northwest China. Jiuquan is an ancient town with a 2,000-year history.
The cup is a precious drinking vessel, made of fine jade quarried from Mt. Qilian. When the cup is filled with wine and put under moonlight, it shines as bright as the moon light. That is why people call it the Glittering Night Cup.

It is said as early as in the Zhou Dynasty (about 1100 BC - 221 BC), the luminous cups had been presented as tributes to the court. Legend says that King Mu (10th century B.C.) of the Zhou Dynasty once drank with this cup and found it glittering snow-white in the moonlight. It was then named the ""Glittering Night Cup." It became more famous after the Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet Wang Han sang of it in the following lines:
Grape wine in luminous cups shine.
As we raise them to lips the pipa strikes up fast.
Laugh not if we fall drunk on the battlefield.
Tell us how many ever returned from the war.

Since ancient times, the Qilian Mountains of Gansu have produced a brilliant white, green, black and yellow jade. . Local artisans grind and polish it into either pure, or mixed color wine cups. They vary in shape, size and material. Traditional luminous cups include fat-bottomed cups, high-legged cups and tea-set cups. Cups in the style of the ancient times are Jue (wine vessels with three legs and a loop handle), Gong (made from horns) and Zun (wine goblets), with cut designs. All of them are simple and elegant crystal with natural veins of color. They are all the more cherished because they can withstand sudden contact with extreme heat or cold.


There are 28 steps in making the cups, and six categories of Jinquan cups in over 30 shapes.
Jinquan today has a well-established factory specializing in the making of such luminous cups. Nowadays, visitors to the town, apart from seeing the Jiayuguan Pass, the western end of the Great Wall, all wish to make a tour of this factory, buying a few cups as souvenirs.
By Explore Cultural China

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

French Vintage Tea Posters

Tisane Gauloise  by Paul Berton
Thé de Chine
The Manuel Lausanne
Compagnie Francaise
Produits Maxime

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cloisonne Enamel : Porcelain of Yongzheng period (1723-1735)


Bowl decorated with pheasants and peony in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 6.6cm, diameter of mouth: 14.5cm, diameter of foot: 6cm


Bowl decorated with plucked sprays of plum in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 6.8cm, diameter of mouth: 14.7cm, diameter of foot: 5.9cm


Cup decorated with peach blossoms over a yellow ground in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 4.5cm, diameter of mouth: 7.4cm, diameter of foot: 2.8cm


Bowl decorated with plum blossoms and peony in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 6.9cm, diameter of mouth: 14.6cm, diameter of foot: 6cm


Qing Dynasty  Height: 5.2cm, diameter of mouth: 10.9cm, diameter of foot: 3.9cm
Bowl decorated with hundred flowers in cloisonne enamel


Bowl decorated with dragons among clouds over a yellow ground in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 5cm, diameter of mouth: 10cm, diameter of foot: 4cm


Bowl decorated with blue landscape in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 5.2cm, diameter of mouth: 10.9cm, diameter of foot: 3.9cm


Bowl decorated with rocks and orchid over a yellow ground in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 5.2cm, diameter of mouth: 10.3cm, diameter of foot: 4cm


Bowl decorated with plum blossoms over a yellow ground in cloisonne enamel
Qing Dynasty  Height: 6.2cm, diameter of mouth: 12cm, diameter of foot: 4.6cm

By Explore Cultural China

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vintage Tea Brands /Advertising - Part III

Earl Grey Tea
English Breakfast Tea


Parke's Gold Camel Orange Pekoo Tea
billboard produced by the J Walter Thompson advertising agency
This billboard  was prominent in Boston, Hartford, Detroit, and Cleveland.




Ephemera Society of America, Drink O. & O. Tea ad, 1870s

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Enamel Ware


The enamelware manufacturing craft is actually a complex process combining enamel process and metal process. It is prepared by first grinding quartz, silicon, feldspar, borax and some metal minerals into powder and then melting, and then applying on metal utensils to form a surface after baking. Sometimes polishing or gold-plating is needed. Enamelware which has the sturdiness of metal, the smoothness and corrosion-resistance of glass, is practical and beautiful. To date the earliest enamel object made in China is the Tang-dynasty gold-inlaid silver-base enamel mirror now kept in the Shosoin Repository of Nara, Japan. But no other enamelware was found in the three or four hundred years afterwards. In the late years of the Yuan Dynasty, Chinese enamelware became less influenced by Arabian culture and more and more nationalized.


Enamelware includes gold-inlay enamel, coating enamel, painting enamel in terms of processing methods, and gold-base enamel, copper-base enamel, porcelain-base enamel, glass-base enamel, purple-clay enamel, etc. in terms of bases. Among them the copper-base enamel is the most popular, because the copper price is relatively lower, and enamel is easier to adhere to the copper surface. The distinguished traditional Chinese handicraft Jingtailan (cloisonné enamel), its scientific name being copper background wire-inlay enamel, got its name from being made in large quantities in Beijing during the Jingtai Reign of the Ming Dynasty, and the enamel used was mostly of a blue color. The procedure of Jingtailan includes chiefly base-making, wire-inlaying, firing and soldering, blue enamel coating, enamel-baking, polishing, and gold-plating. Coating is done by using small iron spade or glass tube to apply glaze of different colors first on the background, then on the designs and ten finally to apply the blue glaze and add some shiny white substance. Glazing and baking procedure is done repeatedly, one blazing followed by one baking, often three times are needed for quality cloisonné.


Promoted and propped up by the Qing government, the enamel handicraft grew fast in the Qing Dynasty based on the achievements attained during the Yuan and Ming dynasties. In the reign of Emperor Kangxi, and enamel factory was set up in the court, making wire-inlay enamel and base-engraving enamel at first, and then making painted enamel successfully on a tentative basis. Painted enamel which often applies on small objects is heavy and thick in color, similar to the mixed glaze in earlier time. Porcelain-base enamel, also called enameled color porcelain, is to apply enamel paint on porcelain base. It is a perfect combination of porcelain and painted enamel craft. In the reign of Emperor Qianlong, painted enamel craft was booming. Aside from the court, Guangzhou was the major place of painted enamel making. The painted enamel works made in court featured neat design, meticulous painting, and elevated style, using mostly bright yellow color that is rich in royal flavor. Painted enamel works make in Guangzhou have bold and unstrained lines, decorated with European-style roll-up leaves design using glaze material imported from western countries that is gorgeous in color and sparkling in luster. At that time, snuff bottles of diversified types meticulously produced showed up. They were produced combining enamel, jade, agate, crystal, and porcelain with calligraphic and drawing art. Even western subject matters such as European women and babies, westerns styled pavilions and towers, etc. were adopted for designs, which were rarely seen in previous dynasties.

source: Chinese Arts & Crafts, published by China International Press
By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vintage Tea Brands /Advertising - Part II

Gold Camel Brand Tea
Red Ribbon Brand Tea
Iceland Poppy Tea
Coulee Brand Tea
High Line Brand Tea
New York Skyline Tea
J.B.M. Inc. Brand
Rose Bud Brand Tea
Watkins Japan Tea
Crane Brand Tea
North Grove Brand Tea
Moon Chop Tea

Friday, May 25, 2012

Antiques: Doucai ware


Doucai cup with kids playing design
Chenghua Period, Ming Dynasty
Height: 4.8cm
Mouth diameter: 6cm
Foot diameter: 2.7cm
Deep belly, straight mouth slanting slightly outword, belly gradually contracted downward, ring foot. A blue-and-white line is painted on the innerside of the mouth and the outer side is decorated with kids playing pattern: the sky floated with rosy clouds, a kid holding a line to fly a kite and another watching it with joyous posture; the rest three kids holding flowers playing, and the open ground decorated with patterns such as sunflower plant, Japanese banana trees, rockwork, flowers and grass, and so on. Apart from blue-and-white, red, green and reddish brown are also applied. The two columns within the ring foot are inscribed in regular script with blue-and-white characters which read "Daming Chenghua Nianzhi" (literally, made in the Chenghua Period of the Great Ming Dynasty).
The cup is light and elegant in design with white and fine body. The kids-playing pattern was a rare subject in the Chenghua Period, hence quite precious.


Doucai jar with interlocking lotus pattern
Chenghua Period, Ming Dynasty
Overall height: 8.3cm
Mouth diameter: 4.3cm
Foot diameter: 6.5cm
Mouth diameter of the lid: 5.6cm
Straight mouth, plump shoulders, ring foot. Double blue-and-white cords on the outer side of the mouth are filled with yellow paint. A circle of blue-and-white lotus petals is covered on the shoulder. The body of the jar is decorated with six interlocking lotus flowers in blue-and-white  with green the stem and leaves. The shank is ornamented with a ring of upstretching lotus petal pattern, and close to foot there are two string lines in yellow glaze and blue-and-white respectively. The bottom is inscribed with the character "tian" (sky) in regular script in blue-and-white. The cover has a flat top, in the middle of which is a lotus flower ball in blue and white applied with red glaze. The outer ring is edged with double lines in blue-and-white, between which yellow glaze is filled. The cover is fringed with a circle of blue-and-white curly branches, and there is a ring of double-line in blue-and-white close to the mouth.
The jar, elegant and beautiful in design and bright and gentle in color, is the representative of the porcelain in Chenghua Period of the Ming Dynasty.


Doucai gaoshi (noble scholar) cup
Chenghua Period, Ming Dynasty
Height: 3.4cm
Mouth diameter: 5.9cm
Foot diameter: 2.7cm
Open mouth, rim slanting slightly outward, gradually contracted downward, shallow ring foot. On the bottom within the two square frames there are six characters in regular script reading "Daming Chenghua Nianzhi" (literally, made in Chenghua Period of the Great Ming Dynasty) in two lines. Two sets of doucai patterns are decorated on the outerside of the cup: one is "Wang Xizhi fond of goose", and the other "Yu Boya visiting friend with his qin", hence the name "gaoshi cup" (in Chinese, gaoshi means noble scholar; Wang Xizhi was a great calligraphist and Yu Boya a great musician). In the picture Wang Xizhi stands beside a pond wearing a red robe, overlooking the swimming goose. Behind him a young attendant in green is holding a volume of bamboo slips, surrounded by willows, wild flowers and drifting rosy clouds. On the other side Yu Boya is marching steadily forward, dressed in green with two hair buns on the head. A boy attendant in red follows him with qin in his arms. There are lush pine trees and cypress trees around, doted with clusters of wild chrysanthemums. The two groups of painting are mainly decorated with underglaze blue and white and overglaze red and aqua green, fresh and bright in color.

Doucai benba pot with ornamental tassel design
Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty
Overall height: 23.2cm
Mouth diameter: 5cm
Foot diameter: 9.1cm
The vessel imitates the design of Tibetan silver benba (a transliteration of Tibetan language, meaning vase) pot, shaped like a pagoda. Both the mouth and the spout have a lid, presenting a novel and unique look. Straight mouth, curvy spout, round and bulgy belly, ring foot stretching outward. The vessel is divided into different units by white bulgy dots. Doucai is applied to lotus petal, ruyi cloud and fire and cloud patterns, and the theme pattern is the animal face and ornamental tassel patterns on the belly.
Benba pot is a sacrificial artical used in the temples in Tibetan region. This vessel is a perfect combination of traditional Tibetan article design with the time-honored Han Chinese porcelain firing technic, and is the historical witness of the exchanges among various ethnic groups in the Qing Dynasty.


Doucai jar and cover with red dragon and phoenix design
Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty
Overall height: 13.1cm
Mouth diameter: 4.6cm
Foot diameter: 10.4cm
Small mouth, short and straight neck, plump shoulder, flat and round belly, with cover. The patterns of dragon playing with the bead and phoenix playing with the bead in iron red glaze are decorated respectively in both sides of the belly. Doucai is only applied to the supplementary patterns on the less important parts such as neck, shoulder, shank and cover. On the bottom six characters in regular script written in two lines within the double blue-and-white rings, which read, "Daqing Kangxi Nianzhi" (literally, made in Kangxi Period of the Great Qing Dynasty).
The vessel highlights the dragon and phoenix patterns, which are elaborately made and fringed by doucai, presenting a special artistic appeal. It is a specific embodiment of the application of the integrated decorating technics in the doucai porcelain of the Kangxi Period.


Doucai zun (wine vessel) in chrysanthemum's shape with interlocking lotus design
Yongzheng Period, Qing Dynasty
Height: 25.7cm
Mouth diameter: 22cm
Foot diameter: 15.6cm
Outward slanting mouth, round belly, high ring foot stretching outward. The vessel is in the chrysanthemum petal shape. The design is regular and elegant. The surface is decorated with vertically interlocking lotus patterns in doucai, which is novel in structure and light and elegant in color. On the bottom six characters in regular script written within the double blue-and-white rings, which read "Daming Chenghua Nianzhi" (literally, made in Chenghua Period of the Great Ming Dynasty). Actually, the vessel is just a duplication made in the Yongzheng Period when underglaze blue and white was combined with overglaze famille rose, which made doucai even fresher and more elegant.


Doucai jar and cover with medallion, chrysanthemum and butterfly design
Yongzheng Period, Qing Dynasty
Overall height: 10.4cm
Mouth diameter: 5cm
Foot diameter: 5.4cm
Straight mouth, plump shoulder, slim bottom, ring foot. The theme patterns on the body are divided into upper and lower lines, each having four medallions which are arranged in alternative. The upper part of the medallion is a butterfly, and the lower part consists of two chrysanthemums as well as their leaves and branches. Plucked lotus branches are decorated between medallions. The shoulder and foot each has a ring of blue-and-white sea wave pattern, on which eight flowers of different colors are decorated. There is a medallion right in the middle of the cover.  On the bottom of the jar six characters in regular script written in two lines within the double blue-and-white rings, which read, "Daqing Yongzheng Nianzhi" (literally, made in Yongzheng Period during the Great Qing Dynasty).

Doucai jar with medallion design
Yongzheng Period, Qing Dynasty
Height: 17.2cm
Mouth diameter: 8.4cm
Foot diameter: 7.8cm
Straight and slightly out-slanting mouth, short neck, round shoulder gradually contracted downward, ring foot. The jar is decorated all over the body with irregular medallions, which are commonly called ball flowers. The jar is glazed on both inner and outer sides. No mark at the bottom.
The Qing Dynasty witnessed further development and progress of doucai firing since its birth in the Ming Dynasty. During the Yongzheng Period, enamel and gold glaze were introduced, and new technics like adding gold glaze to doucai and enamal to doucai were formed. Apart from the original colors of red, yellow, green, purple and reddish brown, a couple of new colors such as pink, carmine, pale pinkish purple, rose color, lake green, etc were added to doucai firing, which made it even more magnificent and beautiful.


Doucai garlic-shaped vase with ruyi ears
Yongzheng Period, Qing Dynasty
Height: 26cm
Mouth diameter: 5.2cm
Foot diameter: 11.8cm
The mouth is in the shape of a garlic, narrow neck, sloping shoulder, round belly, ring foot, ruyi-shaped ears arranged in symmetric pattern between the mouth and the shoulder. The whole vase is decorated in doucai. The rim of the mouth is edged with fret patterns, and the garlic mouth is decorated with plucked branch and flower patterns. The neck is ridged with three layers of decorations, curly grass, flowers, and Japanese banana leaves respectively. There are ruyi cloud pattern and distorted lotus petal pattern respectively on the vase shoulder and shank. The belly is decorated with six groups of plucked branch and flower pattern, alternated with interlocking lotus. On the out bottom six characters in regular script written in two lines within the double blue-and-white rings, which read, "Daqing Yongzheng Nianzhi" (literally, made in Yongzheng Period of the Great Qing Dynasty).

Doucai prunus vase with interlocking branches and flowers pattern
Yongzheng Period, Qing Dynasty
Height: 26.3cm
Mouth diameter: 5.5cm
Foot diameter: 11.9cm
Convex body, round rim, small mouth, short and straight neck, plump shoulder, round and bulgy upper belly, arc-shaped lower belly, foot slanting outward, the bottom sunken to form ring foot. The whole vase are decorated with doucai flower patterns, the neck four groups of flowers, the shoulder interlocking lotus flowers, the belly themed with six groups of plucked flowers patterns with the upper and lower part alternated with distorted entwining lotuses, and the shank interlocking composite flowers. On the bottom of the vase six characters in regular script written in two lines within the double blue-and-white rings, which read, "Daqing Yongzheng Nianzhi" (literally, made in Yongzheng Period during the Great Qing Dynasty).

By Explore Cultural China

Origins of An American Classic

I'm A Little Teapot (The Teapot Song) American classic that emerged in 1939 under Columbia Records actual title is "The Teapot...