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Chinese, Himalayan, Indian, Islamic, Japanese, Korean and Thai

Chinese Ceramics – Antiquity

  Bronze Age (1500-476 BC} Chinese Bronze Age pottery was mainly grey but small quantities of white pottery were produced. This “proto-porcelain” seems to have been produced almost by chance. Kaolin (the main constituent of porcelain) was relatively common and the temperature required to smelt bronze (1100 degrees C) happens to be close to the […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Ceramics – Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

During the Ming Dynasty, the royal family directly controlled the government pottery kilns. As a result these had the best materials and the best craftsmen. Jingdezhen became the national porcelain centre. The general characteristics of Ming porcelain are a fine-grained body, white colour tinted beige on the unglazed footring. Glazes are usually fairly thick and […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Ceramics – Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1912)

After the disruption of the Manchu invasion, Jingdezhen was re-established as the porcelain centre and re-organised on a production-line basis. Manufacture and decoration were separated into a number of specialist operations. Even the decoration of a single pot was split up with one man painting flowers, another trees, and so on. To achieve this, a […]  Continue Reading »

Islamic Ceramics

In the seventh century, Arab armies created an empire in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. Artisans were able to move easily between the various states of this empire sharing ideas and techniques. One result was that for almost a thousand years, the Islamic countries produced some of the world’s finest ceramics. The earliest […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Tin Toys

Immediately after the Second World War, Japanese toy makers began to manufacture battery powered tin plate toys. American and European toy makers had used batteries to operate lights, buzzers and horns but it was the Japanese who replaced clockwork and friction mechanism with electric motors to power toy vehicles and automata. These toys were made […]  Continue Reading »

Persian Carpets

Regional and village carpets from Persia (Iran) are designated by their place of origin (such as Bakhtiari, Bijar, Feraghan, Hamadan, Herez, Isfahan, Kashan, Kerman, Khorassan, Kurdistan, Sarouk, Sehna, Shiraz, and Tabriz). They most often use a central medallion design or an all-over pattern of flowers. The great Persian rug-making tradition culminated in the densely woven […]  Continue Reading »

Turkish (Anatolian) Rugs

Rugs have been made in Turkey since the 12th century and were exported to Europe in large quantities until early in the 20th century. In 1922, Kemal Ataturk, after a victory in a war with Greece, expelled some two million Turks of Greek descent from the country. Unfortunately, these included most of Turkey’s rug makers. […]  Continue Reading »

Central Asian Rugs

Turkoman rugs are made by the nomads of Central Asia and Turkestan and include Afghan, Baluchi and Bokhara. Most are reddish and have a geometric design that incorporates the coat of arms (or “gul”) of the individual tribe. Turkoman rugs are usually made by women and are highly regarded for their workmanship. Turkoman weavers are […]  Continue Reading »

Indian Rugs

The Indian Mogul emperors of the 16th and 17th centuries imported not only Persian carpets but their weavers as well. These produced finely woven floral and hunting rugs. These weavers also made rugs for export, some incorporating European coats of arms. However, exports on a large scale began only at the end of the nineteenth […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Rugs

Simplicity of design, serenity of composition, a limited range of subdued and harmonious colours, usually blue or yellow in many shades. Symbolic motifs characterise traditional Chinese rugs. Frequently recurring designs in Chinese rugs include geometrics such as the familiar meander border; animals including various dragon forms, Fu dogs, storks, cranes, butterflies, and bats; realistic flowers; […]  Continue Reading »

Islamic Glass

Glass making in Europe made no advances for almost a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire. But in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, the industry remained active. With the establishment of the Islamic Empire in the seventh century, an Islamic style developed. In the eighth and ninth centuries, engraved and cut […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese History & Dynasties

Shang Dynasty (1523 – 1028 BC) The earliest know historical dynasty in Bronze Age China was the Shang. The Shang were ruled by a powerful king who was also a religious leader. They worshipped natural phenomena, such as rivers, mountains and points of the compass. Sacrifices of animals and, sometimes, human prisoners of war were […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Bronzes

Although carvings in marble, bone and jade exist, the great art of the Shang dynasty (1523 to 1028 B.C.) was that of ritual bronze vessels. These were intended to hold wine, water, grain and meat to be used in sacrificial rites. The vessels were decorated with stylised representations of animals, governed by rigid conventions. A […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Jade

Jade, and particularly Chinese jade, can be a very difficult item to purchase wisely, unless you are an expert or deal through a reputable dealer. The confusion starts because there are actually two minerals (nephrite and jadeite) which we, in the West, call jade. These range in colour from white through brown to green, and […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Furniture

A wide variety of miniature furniture has been found in Han Dynasty tombs. This includes chairs, tables, cupboards and chests. It is made with sophisticated, flowing lines, not unlike modern bentwood furniture. The pieces are made of rich, fine-grained hardwoods, like ebony, rosewood and sandalwood, polished to a high finish and with little, if any, […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Ivory

The term “ivory” embraces a number of materials but usually refers to elephant or walrus tusk. These are easily worked, have a close grain, a natural lustre and a smoothness that makes them ideal for small objects. From the 10th century, China traded through the port of Ch’uan-chou with Arabs who brought ivory from Africa  […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Snuff Bottles

Snuff was introduced into China early in the Ch’ing Dynasty (1600 to 1910). To keep the snuff dry and to prevent it spilling, it was contained in small bottles with a cork-ringed stopper into which a tiny spoon was fitted. The snuff was taken by spooning it onto the left thumbnail, on which it was […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Lacquerware

Lacquer is the sap from the sumac, or lacquer, tree. It has been used in China for decorative purposes since the Han Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.) Basically, lacquerwork is produced by applying very many coats of lacquer over a mould until the required form is created. It lends itself to a wide variety of […]  Continue Reading »

Himalayan Art

The earliest known settlers in Nepal were the Newaris. who settled in the main Kathmandu valley. Their origins are not known but racially they show affinities to the Mongolians. In the third century AD, the Licchavis, a tribe from what is now the Bihar state in India conquered Nepal and introduced a strong Indian cultural […]  Continue Reading »

Gandharan Sculpture

From the about the 6th century BC to the 5th century AD, Gandhara was a small community on the Silk Road from China to Rome. It was located near the border of modern Pakistan and Afghanistan just east of the Khyber Pass. Its capital, Taxila, was 20 miles from present day Islamabad. It was subject […]  Continue Reading »

The Buddha Image

Until the end of the first century AD, the Buddha was represented only in symbols. During the first century, Buddhism divided into two movements. The newer movement, called Mahayana (the Great Vehicle), as opposed to the older Hinayana (the Lesser Vehicle), deified the Buddha and provided him with a host of “saints” (Bodhisattvas). Symbols were […]  Continue Reading »

Indian Furniture

Traditional Indian homes have very little furniture by European standards – carpets and cushions are spread on the floor, small tables also served as stools and chests were used to store clothes. European colonists brought with the a demand for European style furniture and Indian craftsmen began producing items based on English, Dutch and Portuguese […]  Continue Reading »

Indian Bidri Metalware

The technique of decorating blackened base metals with silver has been practiced in Bidri in central India since the 15th century. The item is cast in an alloy containing mostly zinc. The pattern is then chiselled out and inlaid with silver. The item is then covered with mud containing chemicals, particularly ammonia, which darken the […]  Continue Reading »

Indian Jewellery

Prior to European colonisation, India had two distinct cultures, Hindu in the south and Islamic in the north, and two distinct styles of jewellery. Hindu men wore specific jewellery to show that they had passed through various stages of life. The Hindu woman’s jewellery was her dowry and passed down from generation to generation. Hindu […]  Continue Reading »

Indian Daggers

Traditionally, in India the dagger indicated the background and status of the wearer. Maharajas vied with each other, commissioning the finest craftsmen to make the most beautiful and valuable weapons, decorated with precious metals and rare jewels. At the same time, plain steel daggers were used by ordinary men in the battlefield. There were many […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese History & Dynasties

Early Period (to 897 AD) A neolithic culture (called Jomon) existed in Japan as early as 3000 B.C. From about the first century A.D., the Japanese were producing replicas of objects from many parts of Asia, including replicas of bronze mirrors from China, grey pottery (called sue) from Korea and bell-shaped bronzes (called dotaku) from […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Ceramics

Pottery has been made in Japan since Neolithic times (from before 4,500 B.C.). Early wares employed techniques and styles imported from China, Korea an even as far away as Vietnam. A favoured technique was to cord or woven material onto pots while still soft, giving a ribbed effect. Japanese Jomon period cord pattern wares were […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Furniture

Partly because the frequency of earthquakes precluded the use heavy construction methods, traditional Japanese buildings, and the furniture in them, are light. The Japanese sat and slept on the floor and, so, had no chairs or beds in the Western style. They used low tables for writing and most often stored their goods on open […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Cloisonne

Cloisonné is produced by drawing a pattern on a base object, such as a vase, which is usually copper. Thin wires are fused or glued over the lines of the drawing and the spaces between the wires are filled with enamel. Cloisonné has been produced in France for about 1,000 years but Japanese cloisonné is […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Netsuke

For about 300 years up to the early 20th century, Japanese men’s dress included a small box or pouch, called an inro, fastened to sash around his kimono by a toggle, called a netsuke. The inro was originally a box to hold a seal. It was later divided into two compartments to hold ink as […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Kimonos

The kimono is essentially an ankle-length gown with wide sleeves. It is secured at the waist with a sash called an obi. Japanese men and women of all classes wore the same fundamental dress. As the kimono was minimally tailored, fashion was based on fabric and pattern rather than on cut. Peasant kimonos were usually […]  Continue Reading »

Traditional Korean Arts & Crafts

Over the past 30 years demand for fine examples of chests, celadon and artwork from “Chosun”, Land of the Morning Calm, now known as Korea, has sometimes led to the mistaken belief that traditional examples of the arts and crafts of the Korean peninsula are no longer obtainable. Fortunately, this is not the case, as […]  Continue Reading »

Korean Celadon

Korea has the second longest tradition of porcelain production in the world (after China). Korean potters first produced porcelain in 918, during the Koryo Dynasty. Although contemporary with the Chinese Sung Dynasty, the Koryo potters took their inspiration from the earlier Tang Dynasty Yue wares. These were grey-green vessels (called “celadon” in the West or […]  Continue Reading »

Islamic Copper, Silver & Bronze

From 1037 to 1194, the Seljuks united Mesopotamia and most of Persia under their rule. During this period, the technique of decorating bronze vessels with inlaid silver or copper, or both, was developed in eastern Persia. From here the technique spread to Mosul (now Al Mawsil in northern Iraq) with which it became particularly associated. […]  Continue Reading »

Thailand – History

Thailand has had its own unique culture since the 13th century when the Thai people broke away from the Khmer empire. Until the 16th century there were two distinct kingdoms in what is now Thailand. The Lanna kingdom in the north and the Thai in the south. Thai art is divided into periods named after […]  Continue Reading »

Thai Ceramics

The ceramics industry in Thailand began early in the Sukhotai period (around 1350) when potters migrated south to escape the Mongol invasion of Sung Dynasty China. They congregated near Sawankalok. The Sawankalok pots were early examples of mass production. The items to be fired were stacked in kilns with metal plates separating the various layers. […]  Continue Reading »

Thai Bronzes

The Thais learned the art of bronze casting from the Indians. During the early centuries A.D., Indian culture totally dominated Thailand, and indeed most of South Asia, bringing with it Hindu and, later, Buddhist religion and art. In Thailand, the Indian Buddha image was influenced by Khmer and Burmese art to emerge as a unique […]  Continue Reading »

Thai Gold

Despite the fact that gold is not found in abundance in Thailand, a wealth of gold artefacts have been produced. The most popular use of gold was in the form of gold leaf applied to Buddha images to promote spiritual well-being. The characteristic Thai art of overlaying black lacquer with gold leaf to create intricately […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Painting

The Chinese considered painting to be the only fine art. The artist looked to the past for inspiration. Recreating past masterpieces was regarded as a worthwhile and honourable endeavour – unlike in the West, where it is regarded as forgery! Since the Sung Dynasty ((980 to 1279) landscape painting has been predominant. The characteristic style […]  Continue Reading »

Japanese Painting & Prints

Civil wars were fought in Japan between rival shoguns for much of the time between 1333 and 1573. The samurai, a caste of professional warriors, became extremely influential throughout this period in all aspects of Japanese life including the arts. The samurai were attracted to the self-discipline and self-reliance emphasised by Zen Buddhism which they […]  Continue Reading »