Chinese Shiwan Art Pottery / Folklore and Artistry

Chinese Shiwan Art Pottery / Folklore and Artistry


Importance and Poetic Appreciation | Chinese Shiwan Ware

Shiwan Art Pottery, also known as Shekwan ware, is an important part of the Chinese traditional culture. Ceramic wares have a long history of reflecting the customs of this ancient culture. This particular type of ceramics had a very cultural and religious element to their overall design. Shiwan ware has been the shining star in Chinese folk ceramic art as early as the Tang and Song Dynasties (618-906AD), and flourished in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Shiwan craftsmen are well-known for their glazing techniques and unique forms, (all hand-formed), and involves numerous family members within a village. While directed by a master craftsman, every object is unique, and therefore, a limited edition. Most of the National Master pieces and Museum pieces exhibiting superlative and delicate craftsmanship have been collected by national museums and collectors all over the world. These include lively earthen figures and animals which have been granted the National Golden Metal and the Quality Product Medal of Guangdong Province, (Cantonese craftsmen).

Original Shiwan figurines (1880-1940), as shown here, are extremely rare because of the art/craftsmanship and their delicate, fragile nature. The greater the detailing, the more likely the figure has been made by a master artist, hence the higher value. The Shiwan style is free, unpretentious, and shows a spontaneous, direct vision, which is typical of unsophisticated art. Primitive in sculpting techniques; the decorative elements associated with the figure; the deep rich glazes infused with the piece; the type of regional clay, (sandy, coarse clay is the oldest), all reflect stylistic differences within that region. Through its refreshing naïveté and directness, a great vitality is released. Shiwan pottery is a very important Cantonese art form, and because of its naturalness, rustic charm, and usefulness, it has been called the ceramic art of the people.

 One of the most famous types of ceramic works, Shiwan ware, has been the shining star in Chinese folk ceramic art which flourished in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Chinese classical Shiwan ware is a type of traditional pottery that comes from the talented artists of a small town located in the south of China called Shiwan, in Foshan City, famous for its culture and pottery. The age of Shiwan ware can be verified by the markings, or lack of markings; the fact that they are hand-formed, and primitive in sculpting techniques; the decorative elements associated with the figure; the deep rich glazes infused with the piece; the type of regional clay, (sandy, coarse clay is the oldest), and its stylistic differences.

          

Artistic figural pottery sculptures’ brought Shiwan to fame. The best ones were based on keen observation of common men and women, as well as historical figures represented in the Cantonese opera. The figures came from Chinese history, folklore, and philosophy. The portrayed qualities in these figures are so detailed that it has been suggested that one way of distinguishing earlier figures from those made after 1949 is by medical diagnoses, wherein for earlier figures show signs of malnutrition and other ailments that were more common in the earlier society.

When China open its borders to trade with East Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries it brought an influx of Chinese goods into Europe aboard ships from the English, Dutch, French, Swedish East India Trading Companies. Later in the 20th century, western visitors including Americans and silent film stars, and missionaries would purchase these expressive, glazed figures at local markets and carry them home.

From late Ming until the late Qing dynasty, the products often bear the signature, seal or mark of the artist, or workshop, who was widely acclaimed and highly honored. If pieces were not marked they were made in homage to the great era of Chinese pottery making. All Shiwan Art Pottery retain considerable value based on condition, the detail of the carving and quality of the glazing. 

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