Antique Chinese Shiwan Ware

Antique Chinese Republic Shiwan (Shekwan) Pottery  | Begging Monk P’ang Yun


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 4-0”w x 9-0”h

This image of a quiet and eccentric Buddhist monk lived much of his life as a hermit. He was known as a poet and calligrapher, always communing with nature, which represents the essence of Buddhism.

He has a simple blue robe trimmed in yellow ochre. His chest is bare, and head and hands are unglazed. The most interesting feature is the head is a separate piece to keep the head from breaking and to facilitate shipping. The most interesting feature of this piece is that his bald head is made separately from the body, and fits perfectly to hold in a gestured position. The face is beautifully and intricately carved with his mouth wide open, showing his teeth and very expressive eyes that are somewhat three-dimensional. His ears are realistically carved. His simple cream-colored glazed bowl tells the story. The piece is unsigned. 

Budai was known for rejecting the snare of wealth and worldly. He was prosperous in his youth, but decided that he worried too much about his wealth, so he decided to get rid of it. Initially, he was going to give his wealth away, but then thought that whoever received his wealth would become as attached to it as he had. So, instead, he piled all his worldly goods on a boat, floated it out to the middle of a lake, and sank it. The begging bowl shows the monk’s determination to give up earthly possessions. It used to be one of the only possessions that was allowed and was used by priests to go out to beg for alms. This piece was originally purchased in a small town located in Guangdong province, China in 1985 and is from the Estate of Rudolph Schaeffer, (1886-1988) who headed the School of Art & Design in Chinatown & Potrero Hill San Francisco which closed in 1984. He had an extremely large collection of Chinese artifacts and particularly Shiwan Art pottery. 

Antique Condition: This is a 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 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, course clay is the oldest), and the stylistic differences. Finally, pieces signed or stamped by the artist/craftsman are rare. The oldest Shiwan pieces, prior to 1890, will not have a signature or stamp. 

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). © 2019 — Vermillion Publishing