Antique Chinese Shiwan Ware

Antique Chinese Republic Shiwan (Shekwan) Pottery | Wang Xizhi with Fan


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 2-3/4”w x 8-0”h

Wang Xizhi served as a general and an imperial officer in the Jin Dynasty, and a famous calligrapher of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. He is still honored as ‘the’ calligraphy sage generations later. Hence we see his representation in many forms. Experts have described his calligraphy as “the Dragon jumping over the heavenly gate and the Tiger lying in the watchtower of the Phoenix.” He was traditionally referred to as the ‘Sage of Calligraphy.
This figure of Wang Xizhi is finished in a deep “pomegranate red” glaze. In the Qing period, this color may have had further symbolism that could have hearkened back to the earlier period of bravery and loyalty to the ruling empire. Here we see him standing with a large fan in hand, having an expressive face and traditional beard, for which he is known. During the Qing dynasty, the shaved forehead and queue, (hairpiece, up or down), was symbolic of Manchu autocratic authority and its cultural dominance, which additionally marked social or civil status. The piece has an impressed mark on the bottom, which says “Made in China”. This piece was purchased in a small town located in Guangdong province, China in 1985 from a scholar who specialized in the history and folklore embodied in Shiwan ware.
Antique Condition: This is an extremely beautifully glazed figure in excellent condition: no chips or missing elements or repairs. “As is” and retains the original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage noted.
NOTE: Overview and Characteristics of Shiwan Art Pottery
As an important part of Chinese traditional culture, ceramic wares have a long history reflecting the customs of this ancient culture. One of the most famous types of ceramic works is called Shiwan (Shekwan) ware, which has been the shining star in Chinese folk ceramic art as early as the Tang and Song Dynasties (618-906AD), and 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. Here craftsmen are well-known for their glazing techniques and unique forms. All the sculptural work is hand-formed, and sometimes involves numerous family members within a village, while directed by a master craftsman, every object is unique, and therefore, a limited edition, which attracts art collectors the world over. The three largest collections of Shiwan Art Pottery are housed in the Hong Kong Fung Ping Shan Museum, and the Chinese Cultural Centre in San Francisco.
Original Shiwan figurines, (1880-1940), 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. Also the larger the piece the more valuable, (8-0” or pieces over 20.0” tall) are extremely rare. The age of Shiwan ware can be verified by the markingsor lack of markings, the fact that they are hand-formed, depicting highly expressive figural forms and vivid imagery; 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 the stylistic differences.
Travelers or missionaries to the orient would purchase the mud figures at local markets and carry them home. These were not stamped, because they were not for importation, although you may find some pieces signed by the artist.
DO NOT CONFUSE MUDMEN / MUD FIGURES WITH SHIWAN WARE!  This unique artistic style made Shiwan ceramics extraordinarily splendid, (not to be confused with the export mud men, which were smaller figures made of mud-like clay forced into a mold and/or finger-formed, and used as decorative additions to in bonsai, planters and aquariums). These lack the expression, detail, and individuality of their glazed handmade counterparts).