OF CHINESE PORCELAINS
STEPHEN W. BUSHELL
WILLIAM M. LAFFAN
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART NEW YORK
BY ROBERT GRIER COOKE
PREFACE TO THIS EDITION of the Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelain
The purpose of the present catalogue is to afford to those interested in the subject of Chinese porcelain an opportunity to study the objects exhibited in the Morgan Collection in the light of the latest knowledge that is to be had on the subject. The collection is the most comprehensive that is known, and it has been described as succinctly and lucidly as appeared possible, and without any technicalities that could be avoided.HIS work has been made available to visitors by the aid of Dr. Stephen W. Bushell, C.M.G., the eminent Oriental scholar and sinologue, who has revised (1906) the original catalogue of Mr. Morgan’s collection, privately printed in a limited edition. Dr. Bushell has also written an introductory article on the general subject of Chinese porcelain and its history, similar to his Chinese Art, in the South Kensington Museum series, and it will be found to contain a short and authoritative account of the industry from the earliest times to the present day.
NV M. L.
So heres’ the book, The MORGAN COLLECTION OF CHINESE PORCELAINS in Flip Form, its remarkably well written by two legends of the day.
To View in FULL screen simply click the little square screen at the lower left of the panel.
A Lecture by American Asian Art dealer James Lally given at the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington DC on the Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelains and the Freer Collection of Asian Art
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
If, however, we demand examples, or fragments even, of the true porcelain so eloquently described by early Chinese writers as essential to our acceptance of its existence at the period to which they ascribe it, we shall not be gratified. Chinamen venerate antiquity more than they do anything else; they have always exaggerated its virtues and inculcated its importance, and have never been averse to cultivating the fictitious side of it, either in literature or in art. We do not know yet, by the possession of the actual objects, identified and proved, when true porcelain was produced. It is doubtful if it preceded the dynasty of the Mings, and it is more than probable that the porcelain attributed to earlier periods was stoneware or celadon. That it was kaolinic, and dense and vitrified throughout, may be believed; but that it was true porcelain we have no trustworthy evidence. The tendency of all periods in China that we are able to review has been to exaggerate antiquity or counterfeit it. When the trade in porcelain with Western nations opened in the sixteenth century, it was in great part founded upon wares of a fictitious antiquity. ACCORDING to the Chinese the art of making porcelain was known to them in the seventh century of our era. Chinese literature ascribes the invention to a much earlier period—some twenty-five centuries before Christ. If, however, we accept the modern definition of porcelain, namely, that it is white, hard, translucent body, vitrified throughout, it is not at all certain that the art existed until much later than the seventh century. Chinese writers appear to describe true porcelain, but we cannot be sure of their meaning. We are only certain of it when, in addition to the writing, we have an actual example of the thing written about. Certain it is that no trace of this early porcelain remains. We have Chinese pottery of great antiquity, and now, at the beginning of the twentieth century, China is beginning to yield it with comparative freedom, the reasons doubtless due to the intrusion of Western ideas and the breaking down of the prejudices of many centuries. This pottery is all said to come from graves or burial grounds, which its character fully indicates. It has much in common with the ancient pottery of Western nations, and, on a superficial inspection, it would be difficult to separate certain vases of the earlier dynasties from like pieces of Babylonian or Egyptian origin.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
He had never seen a piece of porcelain bearing the Ch’eng-hua mark which was made in the reign of that monarch. We have never seen a piece bearing it that was older than the beginning of the reign of K’ang-hsi, 1662-1722; but we have seen a vast number that were even more modern.The greater part of the porcelain imported into European countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was supposed to be antique porcelain. The Chinese assumed that the European customer would value the commodity for the same qualities that made it esteemed in China, and it was accordingly dated back a century or so. Those who then took account of the date-marks appear to have accepted them in good faith, and they remained undisputed until toward the end of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the most familiar date-mark upon the Chinese porcelain so widely distributed in all European countries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was that of the reign of Ch’eng-hua, 1465-1487. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of it survive, but we have Modern research and study have dispelled many of the illusions and trade traditions that obscured the whole history of Chinese porcelains. In fact, at the end of the nineteenth century it has been found necessary to adopt an entirely different classification. In all the European collections where there has been any systematic attempt at classification, the most important of the decorated porcelains and the best of the monochromes were ascribed to the dynasty of the Mings,—that is to say, they must have been made in or prior to the reign of \Van-li, the Ming emperor, with whom the industry perished in the Tartar invasion. All the important blue and white pieces were parcelled out as far back as the emperor Yung-lo, 1403-1424, with a distinct partiality for Ch’eng-hua, 1465-1487, and a leaning toward Hstiante, 1426-1435. The fine rare reds, the sang de bceufs, were all Ming pieces, and by a curious fatuity were called Lang-yao; a family of potters named Lang being created spontaneously for them. These last were really K’ang-hsi porcelains, 1662-1722, and were Lang pieces in good faith, having been produced at King-te-then under the prefecture of the great Lang, who gave so wonderful an impetus to the art under the protection of the peaceful Tartar monarch. The black pieces, the so-called hawthorns, with varied decorations supported on a black ground, were all relegated to the dynasty of the Mings, and it is only at the beginning of the twentieth century that we are able definitely to dispel all these errors, and straighten out in some degree the sadly involved chronology of Chinese porcelain.
In respect to all Chinese porcelain, it may be safely said that when it has been studied for some time it will be found to look its age, including the superb examples in the Morgan collection of Chinese porcelain. We think that age has already done something for the pieces of the seventeenth century. Perhaps it has done very little, but we incline to the belief that some change has been wrought since they left the kiln two hundred years or more ago. So, too, with the Ming porcelains. The beautiful blue and white of Chia-thing, 1522-1566, and the succeeding reigns, the true Mussulman blue of tradition, looks older than the like product of K’ang-hsi. All the five-colored porcelain of the Ming dynasty looks its age, and all the true Ming pieces, of whatsoever description, betray their period to the initiated eye. The counterfeits of the reign of the great Tartar, K’ang-hsi, were wonderfully clever, but they do not look the age ascribed to them. Marvellous, too, are the counterfeits of our own time, the appalling industry in China evoked by the high prices, the irresistible rewards offered in Western markets for the ceramic treasures of the Orient. The Chinese have always been counterfeiters; their literature, in respect to porcelain, is a continuous record of imitation, and the art is revived in this our own day with astonishing force and effect, and in a fashion to deceive woefully. Japan too has embarked in this field, and is manufacturing antiquities as fast as the markets of the world will absorb them, not only her own antiquities but those of China and Corea. It is no new industry, the counterfeiting of works of art; it is as old as the history of art itself.
The Chinese writers described the potters’ work of their own times with great particularity and no little enthusiasm. It was as thin as paper, as translucent and sonorous as vessels of jade, and, in respect of color, it appeared to have all the characteristics of the porcelain with which we are familiar. None of it, how-ever, remains at this time to confirm and illustrate its literature. That some such objects were produced there is little doubt, and it would seem safe to assume that it has vanished from existence because of its very fragility and delicacy. A quarter of a century ago there were known to English lovers of porcelain certain pieces bearing the mark of Yung-lo, 1403-1424. There were, perhaps, in all, two or three blue and white cups, with coral-red exteriors decorated with gold and one or two egg-shell bowls of white translucent porcelain of great delicacy. These last were very remarkable pieces. In the body, and visible only in the strongest light, were beautifully drawn dragons and Buddhistic emblems, and in the disk which formed the bottom of the bowl could be faintly traced the inscription, Yung-lo sties chih, in old k’uan characters. No porcelain that ever was made could surpass them in delicacy or in beauty, and they seemed to realize to the utmost the inspiration of the long-departed Chinese historians. How things of such exceeding fragility should have survived the vicissitudes of centuries, and succeeded in transmitting themselves unscathed when the work of more recent ages had not left a trace of itself seemed difficult of explanation. The blue and white bowls with the coral exteriors were more convincing, and when one made its appearance in a goldsmith’s mount of the time of Elizabeth, it seemed impossible to withstand their antiquity.PREFACE
Toward the end of the century, however, objects of the same kind became more frequent, especially the white egg-shell bowls with the perplexing archaic marks, of which quite a number found their way into collectors’ hands. They are not yet explained, at least not to everybody’s satisfaction.
There was a potter in Japan, who came of a long line of potters, and whose name was Zengoro-Riosen. He was born in the latter part of the eighteenth century,and he died full of years and ceramic honors at the end of the first half of the nineteenth century. He is handed down to posterity as a potter of the greatest distinction, and one who, in his time, was celebrated far and wide for the skill with which he imitated the pottery of others. It is told that the Prince of Arita was so pleased with his reproduction of a Chinese vase of the reign of the Emperor Yung-lo, that he forthwith named him Yung-lo, and presented him with a seal bearing those characters, with authority to affix it thereafter to his pieces. Thus it came about that Zengoro-Riosen was thenceforward known as Yeiraku, the Chinese characters Yung-lo being pronounced in Japanese, Yeiraku. The white bowl in the collection, No. 6, case F, is one of these celebrated objects, and bears in old k’uan characters, the mark Yung-lo nien chih.
The so-called “hawthorn” porcelains are divided These pieces, and they are relatively few in number, present the one point of possible or imagined contact with the earlier porcelain of Chinese literature. The more robust porcelains of the Ming dynasty identify themselves readily, and a number of examples are found in the collection. It will always be apparent that pieces of Ming porcelain in some sort look their age. At any rate, they look older in essential particulars than the porcelains which merely bear Ming marks, or which for other reasons have always been erroneously ascribed to a much greater antiquity than they could rightly claim. 1n this category were the black hawthorns, the green hawthorns, the greater part of all the earlier blue and white collections of Europe, all the copper-reds, including the sang-de-bceufs, and practically all the decorated porcelain not bearing the marks of the present dynasty. Even these last were long indeterminate, because prior to the middle of the nineteenth century the marks upon porcelain had not been elucidated for general use.
into three groups, according to color: blue, black, and green. Red hawthorn is also known, but only by a single example—the superb vase, No. 14, case I. There is no hawthorn involved in any of them, the flower from which the term is derived being the blossom of the wild plum or n-zei-flower, and even it does not always appear in the pieces which custom has recognized as hawthorn. The blue hawthorns are the best known, and in the collection there are three unsurpassed examples, of which one, No. 6, case B, known as the Blenheim, is as well known as it is beautiful. These blue vases were originally known as ginger-jars, and were used for the exportation of preserved ginger, in which capacity they were woven about with a protective netting or matting of stout fiber. They were highly esteemed by the Dutch apothecaries, who lined the shelves of their shops with them, and later had them imitated at Delft, with labels to indicate the drugs they were to contain. As with all porcelain objects devoted to daily or domestic use, their destruction was rapid, and the existence of survivors is explained only by the fact that when their beauty was reinforced by their rarity, they were withdrawn from service and properly cared for.
The black and green hawthorn pieces did not appear in Europe until much later. Indeed, it is doubtful if any specimens were known outside China before the latter half of the nineteenth century. They never came within the classification of commercial porcelain, as did all the vast quantity of blue and white which found its way to Holland, but were essentially the possessions of the wealthy or ruling classes, the vases of magistrates, or koziart-khi, as they were designated in China. All of the finer examples of these black and green hawthorns command very high and even extraordinary prices; but there is good reason to believe that they were just as dear and quite as highly prized
at the time when they were produced. In fact, all the evidence goes to show that the prices of such pieces in China two hundred years ago were relatively much higher than those of the present day.
In the black hawthorns, the ground against which the decoration appears is black; in the so-called green hawthorns it is green. In the former the ground is applied after the decoration is completed, and is of a different firing. In the green pieces, the ground and the decoration are established at the same time. –Sometimes the black ground is found to be superposed on a green ground, the latter probably having been found inadequate in effect. The large vase, No. 4, case D, would appear to have been destined for a black hawthorn, but to have been allowed to present its brilliant enamels without the support of any other ground than the fine white porcelain itself. In all the vases of this class the porcelain is of the finest quality.
To Dr. Stephen W. Bushel], who was attached for a quarter of a century to the British Legation at Peking belongs the chief credit of clearing up the whole subject of Chinese porcelain. He was the first to write of it with authority, to present its history intelligibly, and to enforce his learning by a broad and comprehensive classification and identification of the porcelain itself. Whatever had been published before Dr. Bushell made himself known was chaotic, misleading and contradictory. His history of Chinese porcelain was undertaken at the behest of the late William T. Walters, of Baltimore, in connection with a catalogue raisoune of the Walters collection which he prepared; and while it attained no wide publicity, on account of its great size and cost, it reached the serious students and earnest collectors. Since its publication, in 1899, there has been a readjustment of the whole subject on the part of all intelligent persons who are in any way concerned
A great deal has been heard among collectors of the so-called “soft paste” porcelains, and for a long time a special value seemed to attach to them as if they were something quite apart from and more desirable than “hard paste” examples. This naturally was a reflection of the distinction between “soft paste,” or pate tendre, and hard or true porcelain as recognized in European porcelains. There is no such thing as soft paste Chinese porcelain in the European sense of the term; and yet an immense amount of porcelain found its way as such into the hands of people who were induced to pay more for it on that account. For the most part it is inferior, and does not belong to the best period, but must be ascribed to that of the decadence of the art, when new and labored characteristics were imparted to it, to its detriment. The pate tendre of the European porcelains has nothing in common withWhat he accomplished was to move the great mass of porcelain from one Chinese dynasty to another, from the Mings to the Ch’ings, and to dispel many and distracting illusions which had grown up about it. One of the most important collections in existence was classified and generally accepted as containing nothing but Ming pieces. A year or two after Dr. Bushell’s work appeared it was conceded that it contained only one Ming example, and that all the rest were of the ensuing or Ch’ing dynasty. This is a very good example of the revolution wrought by Dr. Bushell’s simple and wholly unpretentious exposition of the actual bearing of Chinese literature and learning upon the subject itself when rightly expounded.
When Chinese porcelain first became known in Europe it aroused universal admiration and wonder. Western nations had only their own wares to compare it with, and when one surveys the ceramic field of Europe, even as late as the year 170o, it is possible to form some idea of the impression it produced. The pottery of England, of Germany, of the Lowlands, of France, and even the beautiful faiences of Italy, were at a vast disadvantage. The quality of the Chinese paste, its purity and brilliancy, its density and fineness, and, above all, the beauty of its enamel colors, which was approached only by that of precious stones—the sapphire, the ruby, the emerald, the amethyst, the turquoise, and the topaz—were a revelation. Little is known of the earliest pieces that came from China. There is a legend that Saladin made a present of forty pieces to Nureddin, Caliph of Syria, circa A. D. 1188, but what was its true nature has not been told. Marco Polo is said to have brought back some porcelain, in 1295, to Venice, after his twenty years’ sojourn with the great Khan, but the circumstances of his return do not enhance the probability that porcelain formed a part of his baggage. Nothing, however, has prevented the appearance in European collections of veritable Chinese porcelains said to have come from Venice and attributed to the great traveller. They were hexagonal, reticulated pieces of viscous white, and Marco Polo would have had to defer his return from Cathay for some 200 years in order to bring them with him.the illusory “soft paste” of the dealers. The semi-egg-shell examples of it in blue and white, which for a time were more or less of a rage with collectors, were really well-advanced examples of the downward tendency of the art in the middle of the reign of Ch’ien-lung.
The earliest pieces to reach Europe were probably celadon,* which obtained a wide distribution by both sea and land, as the learned researches of Dr. Frederick Hirth have shown. The earliest piece known in England was celadon, the communion-cup of Archbishop Warham (i504-1532), and it is to be seen in the treasury of New College at Oxford. lt is in an English silver-gilt mount. 1 t was to celadon that the Persians attributed the marvelous property of denoting, by changing its color, the presence of poison in the food that was served in it. I t did not possess this power, but its cost was great, and only great princes could enjoy its possession, and it was perhaps natural to attribute some preternatural quality to it to justify a value so disproportionate to its appearance. Certain it is that the most archaic remains of true Chinese porcelain that are known are celadon.
Other pieces that reached Europe before importation began were blue and white, and were brought by travelers as precious curiosities, or were presents acquired by ambassadors or other distinguished persons. They were commonly deemed worthy of a mount in the best art of the jewelers of the period, both for the distinction it conferred and the protection it afforded. Some of the most noted of the French metalworkers of the eighteenth century bestowed their best
*Not a little progress has been made in determining the extent of the earlier foreign trade of China in continuation of Dr. Frederick Hirth’s admirable work. Thus, for instance, Chinese bronze mirrors of the Han dynasty have turned up on the Nile, the polished side engraved with votive inscriptions in Arabic. One of these is in the possession of that eminent scholar, Dr. Fouquet, of Cairo. A very interesting occurrence was noted in Egypt last winter. Permission had been granted to some sebbak diggers to demolish and remove an ancient mosque. The structure was known to date from the tenth century. In the stratum beneath the foundations a Chinese celadon bowl of a perfectly familiar character was discovered. It is, we believe, in the collection of Professor Sayce,of Oxford, who was spending the winter on the river, according to his custom for many years.
When Chinese porcelain began to be largely imported it so filled people’s minds and commanded such prices that it very naturally stimulated an intense ambition to produce something like it. For a long time this was sought in vain, the essential element of kaolin being lacking; but potters everywhere were embarked in the research and were bound to succeed. In the meantime the Chinese porcelain was producing its inevitable effect. Chinese shapes were appearing everywhere. Chinese colors were being imitated, and Chinese ideas and motives in decoration were being adopted on all sides. In Saxony, Japanese porcelain had been imported together with the Chinese, from which it was not distinguished, and it was very successfully and admirably imitated in soft paste, by Mager, before the art of making hard paste was discovered. These imitations of Japanese porcelain were wonderful, and they imparted a character to German porcelain that it has never lost, and which, moreover, affected all other European porcelain, and has, equally ever since, continued to exert its influence. This was no art of Bottger’s, for his art was mostly that of a counterfeiter, but was due to the work of a Japanese artist named Kakiyemon, whose white porcelain, decorated with simple isolated designs, whether of sprays of flowers, blossoms, trees, foliage, or animals, completely enthralled Mager. The prevailing feature of Kakiyemon’s work was the projection, on the white field, of an isolated design, and his color scheme was of the simplest imaginable. In his own country he had introduced his personal art from China, where he had acquired it, and it was as potent in Japan as elsewhere, becoming immortal in the productions of Imari. In Europe its effect was universal, spreading
With the discovery of hard paste and the subsequent ability of European potters to supply the market, the importations from China fell off. It was a great trade while it lasted, whole fleets arriving under convoy, laden with porcelain alone, and the appetite for it appeared insatiable. England vied with Holland in the avidity with which it absorbed it, but all parts of Europe were eager customers. In Holland, however, the rage for porcelain was like that which at one time was manifested there for tulips; and as late as the early part of the last century there were not a few Dutch families in which sets of seven-bordered, eggshell, and rose-backed plates and the like number of cups and saucers of similar character were in daily domestic use.
W. M. L. April,
A certain familiarity with the finest collections in Europe, notably the Salting collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Franks Collection in the British Museum, the Grandidier Collection in the Louvre, and the old treasures of Augustus the Strong in the Johanneum, at Dresden, prompts me to place the one before us in the first rank for the striking beauty of many of the specimens, and for their peculiar fitness and readiness for a serious study of the history and development of the ceramic art in China.I HAVE been asked to write a short introduction to a revised catalogue of the Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelain, and have recently been afforded the opportunity of examining every
“The study of any branch of art* supposes,” as Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole justly observes, in his handbook on the Art of the Saracens in Egypt, “some acquaintance with the history of the people among whom the art was practised.” This axiom applies with added force to China and to Chinese art, and particularly to the art of the Chinese potter, who invented porcelain, and subsequently carried its decoration, almost unaided, to such a high pitch of perfection.
The native story of the evolution of Chinese culture makes it nearly as old as the civilizations of Egypt, Chaldxa, and Susiana. These empires have, long since, culminated and disappeared below the horizon, while China has continued to exist, to work out its own ideas of art and ethics, and to elaborate the peculiar script which it retains to the present time. The characters of the ancient Chinese script would appear to have originated and developed in the valley of the Yellow River, and no connection has hitherto been satisfactorily traced with any other system of picture writing. Chinese history is carried back by some to a mythical period of fabulous antiquity; their first man, Pan Ku, emerging from chaos as the embryo of an all-productive cosmic egg or atom. He is followed by a mythical series of celestial, terrestrial, and human rulers, some of the last of which were called Yu Ch’ao (the Nesters), because they lived in trees in those days, and others Sui Jen (the Fire Producers), the discoverers of the primitive friction hand-drill of wood.
*See La Sculpture sur Pierre en Chine au temps des deux dynasties Han, by Prof. E. Chavannes, Paris, 1893.The legendary, as distinct from the purely mythical, period begins with Fu-hsi, the reputed founder of the Chinese polity. He is figured in the carved stone bas-reliefs of the Han dynasty, which date from about the Christian era, and are an invaluable storehouse of ancient lore,* as the first of the three ancient sovereigns, known as San Huang. He holds a mason’s square, and is accompanied by a female personage wearing a coronet, and holding a pair of compasses, another emblem of the masonic craft. This last is NU \Va, who is variously represented as either the consort, or sister of Fu-hsi; their bodies terminating in the forms of dragons or serpents, are intertwined below, and so are those of the attendant sprites supported by rolled clouds ending in birds’ heads. Fu-hsi first traced the eight trigram symbols of Chinese divination, and he also invented knotted cords—records like the Peruvian quippus, which are said to have preceded Chinese hieroglyphics. The third of the San-huang was Shen-nung, the Divine Husbandman, who first fashioned timber into ploughs, and taught his people the art of husbandry. He discovered the curative value of herbs, and founded the first markets for the exchange of commodities.
The Wu Ti, or Five Rulers, who succeeded the above, are depicted in the same series of bas-reliefs. They wear the long official robes and the square-topped hats hung with pendants of jade, which were adopted by the first of their number, the famous Huang-ti, a prominent personage at the dawn of Chinese history. He was the founder of the first hereditary line, whose capital was near the modern Hsi-an Fu, in the province of Shensi. Many of the industrial arts, including that of welding clay, are traced back to his time, and his principal consort, Hsi-ling Shih, who first taught the people to rear silkworms, is still worshipped as a deity on that account. The Taoist mystics have transformed Huang-ti, the ” Yellow Emperor,” into a miraculous being who invented alchemy, and was the first to gain immortality. He is identified by Terrien de Lacouperie with Nak-hunte, and made the leader of his so-called Bak tribes, which are supposed to have traversed Asia from Elam to China, and to have started a new civilization in the valley of the Yellow River; while his predecessor, Shen Nung, is identified with Sargon, who is supposed to have ruled in Chaldxa about 3800 B. C. But such speculations are difficult to follow, although there would really appear to have been some connection between the nascent civilizations of Chaldxa and China at an early period.
With the emperors Yao and Shun, the last two of the ” Five Rulers,” we stand on firmer ground, as they are placed by Confucius at the head of the Sbu King, the classical annals compiled by him in the fifth century before Christ, and idealized as perfect models of disinterested rule for all time. Their capital was at P’ing-yang Fu in Shansi, where their memorial temple still stands just outside the city wall, with gigantic images of the two heroes, thirty feet high, in its central pavilion, before which the reigning emperor Kuang-hsti, burned incense on his return journey to Peking, in 1900.
Yao set aside his own son and called on the nobles to name a successor, when Shun was chosen, who worked as a potter at Hopin before he was called to the throne. Shun, in his turn, passing by an unworthy son, transmitted the throne to an able minister, the great Yu. Yu departed from these illustrious precedents, and incurred the censure of “converting the empire into a family estate,” and since his time the hereditary principle has generally prevailed. Yu gained his great reputation by the success of vast hy-drographic works, continued for nine years, till the country was rescued from floods, and finally divided into nine provinces. His labors are described in the Tribute of Yu, which is preserved in the early annals and is generally considered to be a contemporary document. He is said to have cast nine bronze tripod vessels (ting) from metal sent up from the nine provinces to the capital, situated near K’ai-feng Fu, in the province of Honan, which were religiously preserved for nearly 2000 years as palladia of the empire.
Yu was the founder of the Hsia dynasty, which was succeeded by the Shang, and the Shang by the Chou, as indicated by the following table of the period which is always known to the Chinese as that of San Tai (The Three Dynasties).
THE THREE EARLY DYNASTIES
NAME OF DYNASTY NUMBER OF RULERS DURATION OF DYNASTY
Hsia Eighteen 2205-1767
aShang Twenty-eight 1766-1122
IM Chou Thirty-five 1122-255
The dates given in the above table are those of the official chronology which, however, is not contemporary, but has been calculated backwards by later historians from the lengths of the reigns, the cyclical days of eclipses of the sun and moon, and other data recorded in the current annals. It has been shown that the cycle of sixty was used only for days at this time, not for years. The early dates must be consequently taken as only approximative, since it is not till the accession of Hstian Wang (B. C. 822) that there is a general agreement in the native sources. From this date downwards the official Chinese dates may be accepted with every confidence.
The civilization of China throughout the three ancient dynasties appears to have been, so far as we know, mainly, if not entirely, an indigenous growth. Towards the close of the period, in the course of the fifth and fourth centuries before the Christian era, the northwestern of the feudal realms, the Ch’in State, which corresponded more or less to the modern province of Shensi, came prominently to the front, and gradually extended its boundaries to the south and west. Its name became thus known outside, and from it, no doubt, was derived that of China, by which the country generally became known to the Hindus, Persians, Armenians, Arabs, and ancient Romans. About the same time signs of an overland traffic with India, by
way of Burma and Assam, appeared in the Southwest, started by traders of the Shu State (Szchuan province), and by this route Hindu ideas of forest seclusion and asceticism penetrated, giving a marked color to the early Taoist cult which sprang up in these parts.
The famous builder of the Great Wall, who was destined to overthrow the Chou dynasty, succeeded to the throne of his native State of Ch’in in B. C. 246. In B. C. 221 he had conquered and annexed all the other States, and founded a new and homogeneous empire on the ruins of the feudal system. He further extended the empire widely towards the south, drove back the Hiung-nu Turks on the north, and built the Great Wall as a rampart of defence against these horse-riding nomads. He next tried to burn all historical books, declared himself the First Divus Augustus (Shih Huang-ti), and decreed that his successors should be known as the Second, Third and so forth, even down to the ten-thousandth generation. But his ambitious projects came to naught, as his son who succeeded as Erh Shih Huang-ti, or Emperor in the second generation in B. C. 209, was murdered by the eunuch Chao Kao, two years after, and in 206 his grandson, a mere child, gave himself up to the founder of the house of Han, Liu Pang, bringing with him the jade seals of State, and was assassinated a few days later. A table of the regular succession of dynasties follows here for reference, with the dates of their commencement. The figures in brackets indicate the number in the series of twenty-four voluminous dynastic histories devoted to their annals. (See Wylie’s Notes on Chinese Literature, p. 13.)
The Ch’in emperor, who aimed at universal dominion, may have heard rumors of the conquests of Alexander the Great in Central Asia. But it was not till the next dynasty, the Han, that regular communication was opened up with western countries by sending Chang Ch’ien on a mission to the Yeuh-ti, or Indo-Seyths, whose capital was then on the northern bank of the Oxus River. The envoy started B. C. 139, was kept ten years a prisoner by the Hiung-nu Turks, who ruled Eastern Turkistan, but at last reached his destination through Ta Yuan (Fergana), the name of which is supposed to be derived from the Asiatic name of the Greeks Ta being “Great,” and Yuan equivalent to ‘Mops; or Ionians. The Chinese envoy returned through Bactria, and tried the Khotan Lobnor route, but was again stopped by the Hiung-nu, and got back at last in B. C. 126, after an absence of thirteen years. Chang Ch’ien found bamboo staves, cloth and other goods offered for sale in Bactria, which he recognized as products of Sze-chuan, and was told that they were brought there from Shentu (India). He reported to the emperor the existence of this southwestern trade from China to India, and also the name of Buddha and of Buddhism as an Indian religion. The grape vine with its Greek name (pu-t’ao from /3oz-puc), the lucerne (Medicago sativa), the pomegranate from Parthia (Ansi), and several other plants were introduced into China by him, and were first planted at the capital in the Shang Lin Park. The emperor, Wu Ti, subsequently sent friendly embassies to Sogdiana, and to Parthia in the beginning of the reign of Mithradates II, followed by an army to Fergana in B. C. 102-100, which conquered the Ta Yuan kingdom, and brought back in triumph thirty blood-sweating Niscean horses (of classical fame). In the far south Kattigara (Cochin China) had been annexed in 110 B. C., and given the Chinese name of Jih Nan (South of the Sun), and a ship was despatched from that port to get a supply of the colored glass of Kabulistan, which was becoming so highly valued at the Chinese court.
The official introduction of Buddhism followed in the year 67 A.D. The emperor Ming Ti, having seen in a dream a golden figure floating in a halo of light across
the pavilion, was told by his council that it must have been an apparition of Buddha, and sent a special mission of inquiry to India. The envoys returned to the capital, Lo-yang, with two Indian monks, bringing with them Pali books, some of which were forthwith translated, and pictures of Buddhist figures and scenes, which were copied to adorn the walls of the palace halls and of the new temple which was built on the occasion. This was called Pai Ma Ssil (The White Horse Temple), in memory of the horse which had carried the sacred relics across Asia, and the two Indian sramana lived there till they died. The subsequent influence of Buddhist ideals on Chinese art has been all pervading, but there is no space to pursue the subject here.
In 97 A.D. the celebrated Chinese General Pan Ch’ao led an army as far as Antiocha Margiana, and sent his lieutenant Kan Ying to the Persian Gulf to take ship there on an embassy to Rome, but the envoy shirked the sea journey and came back without accomplishing his mission. Roman merchants came by sea to Katti-gara (Cochin China) in 166 A.D., appearing in the annals as envoys from the emperor An-tun (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), and later arrivals of Roman traders were reported at Canton in 226, 284, etc. Meanwhile the overland route to the north, which had been interrupted by the Parthian wars, was re-opened, and many Buddhist missionaries came to Lo-yang from Parthia and Samarkand, as well as from Gandhara in Northern India.
During the period of the “Northern and Southern Dynasties,” when China, from the beginning of the fifth to nearly the end of the sixth dynasty, was divided, Buddhism flourished exceedingly. The Toba Tartars, who ruled the north, made it a state religion, and their history devotes a special book (Wei Shlt, Ch. cxiv) to the subject, which gives an interesting account of the monasteries, pagodas, and rock sculptures of the time;
with a supplement on Taoism under the heading of Huang Lao, i. e., the religion of Huang Ti and Lao Tzu. In the south the emperor Wu Ti of the Liang dynasty, who reigned (502-549) at Chien K’ang (Nanking), often put on te mendicant’s robes, and expounded the sacred books of the law in Buddhist cloisters. It was in his reign that Bodhidharma, the son of a king in Southern India, the twenty-eighth Indian and first Chinese patriarch, came to China in A.D. 520, and after a short stay at Canton settled at Lo-yang. He is often represented in glyptic art carrying the famous piitra, the “holy grail” of the Buddhist faith, or pictured crossing the Yangtsze on a reed which he had plucked from the bank of the river.
In the Sui dynasty the empire was re-united, and under the Great T’ang dynasty (618-906), which succeeded, it attained its widest limits. The T’ang ranks with the Han as one of the great “world-powers” of Chinese history, and many of the countries of Central Asia appealed to the Son of Heaven for protection against the rising prowess of the Arabs. A Chinese general with an army ‘of Tibetan and Nepalese auxiliaries took the capital of Central India (Magadha) in 648, and fleets of Chinese junks sailed to the Persian Gulf, while the last of the Sasanides fled to China for refuge. The Arabs soon afterwards came by ship to Canton, settled in some of the coast cities as well as in the province of Yunnan, and enlisted in the imperial armies on the northwest for service against rebels. Nestorian missionaries, Manichxans, and Jews came overland during the same period, but the Crescent prevailed in these parts and has lasted ever since, the number of Chinese Mohammedans to-day being estimated to exceed 25,000,000.
Buddhist propagandism was most active early in the T’ang, after the headquarters of the faith had been shifted from India to China. Hindu monks, expelled
from their native country, brought their sacred images and pictures with them, and introduced their traditional canons of art, which have been handed down to the present day with little change. Chinese ascetics, on the other hand, wandered in successive parties to India to investigate the holy land of the Buddha and burn incense before the principal shrines, studying Sanskrit and collecting relics and manuscripts for translation, and it is to the records of their travels that we owe much of our knowledge of the ancient geography of India.
Stimulated by such varied influences Chinese art flourished apace, the T’ang dynasty being generally considered to be its golden period, as it certainly was that of literature, belles-lettres, and poetry. But the T’ang power during its decline was shorn, one by one, of its vast dominions, and finally collapsed in 906. The Kitans, who gave their name to Marco Polo’s Cathay, as well as to Kitai, the modern Russian word for China, were encroaching on the north, a Tangut power was rising in the northwest, a Shan kingdom was established in Yunnan, and Annam declared its independence.
Of the five dynasties which rapidly succeeded one another after the T’ang, three were of Turkish extraction, and they may be dismissed with a word as being of little account from an artistic point of view.
In 96o the Sung dynasty reunited the greater part of China proper, shorn of its outer dominions. The rule of the Sung has been justly characterized as a protracted Augustan era, its inclinations being peaceful, literary, and strategical, rather than warlike, bold, and ambitious. Philosophy was widely cultivated, large encyclopedias were written, and a host of voluminous commentaries on the classics issued from the press, so that the period has been summed up in a word as that of Neo-Confucianism. The emperor and high officials
made many collections of books, pictures, rubbings of inscriptions, bronze and jade antiquities, and other art objects, of which important illustrated catalogues still remain, although the collections have long since been dispersed. During this time the Chinese intellect would seem to have become, as it were, crystallized, and Chinese art gradually developed into lines which it still, for the most part, retains.
The Yuan dynasty (128o-1367) was established by Kublai Khan, a grandson of the great Mongol warrior Genghis Khan. The Mongols annexed the Uigur Turks and destroyed the Tangut kingdom; swept over Turkestan, Persia, and the steppes beyond; ravaged Russia and Hungary; and even threatened the existence of Western Europe. China was completely overrun by nomad horsemen, its finances ruined by issues of an irredeemable paper currency, and its cities handed over to alien governors called darughas. A Chinese contemporary writer describes the ruin of the porcelain industry at Ching-te-then at this time by exorbitant official taxation, so that the potters were driven away from the old imperial manufactory there, to start new kilns in other parts of the province of Kiangsi. Marco Polo is astonished at the riches and magnificence of the great khan, who was really a ruler of exceptional power and made good use of his Chinese conquests. But the culture which surprised the Venetian traveller was pre-Mongolian, and its growth was mainly due to Chinese hands. Even the wonderful cane palace of Marco Polo celebrated by Coleridge:—
“In Xanadu did Nubia Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree, etc.”
was actually the old summer residence of the Sung emperors at k’ai-feng Fu, in the province of Honan, which was dismantled and carried away piecemeal to
Of the Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelain
The Mongolian era is responsible for some of the remarkable similarities that have been noticed in industrial art work of Western and Eastern Asia, which were then for the first time under the rule of the same house. Hulagu Khan is said to have brought a hundred families of Chinese artisans and engineers to Persia about 1256; and on the other hand, the earliest painted porcelain of China is decorated with panels of Arabic script pencilled in the midst of floral scrolls, strongly suggestive of Persian influence.
The Mongols were driven out of China to the North of the desert of Gobi in 1368, in which year the Ming dynasty was founded by a young bonze named Chu Yuan-chang. They raided the borders for some time, and even carried off one of the Chinese emperors in 1449, who, however, was liberated eight years later, to resume his reign under the new title of T’ien-shun, as may be seen in the accompanying list. This is noticeable as being the only change of niers-hao during the last two dynasties, whereas in previous lines changes were very frequent.
The early Ming emperors kept up intercourse with the west by sea, and the reign of Yung-lo and Hsiian-te are especially distinguished by the career of a famous eunuch admiral, who went in command of armed junks to India, Ceylon, and Arabia, down the African coast to Magadoxu, and up the Red Sea as far as Jiddah, the seaport of Mecca. Celadon porcelain (ch’ing 4’11) is included in the list of articles taken to Mecca in the reign of Hstian-te (1426-35), and it was perhaps one of these expeditions that brought the celadon vases sent by the Sultan of Egypt in 1487 to Lorenzo de Medici. In the next century Portuguese and Spanish ships appeared for the first time in these seas, and Chinese junks were no more seen. The four Burghley
House pieces of Ming porcelain with Elizabethan silver-gilt mounts, in the collection at the South Kensington Museum, were probably brought to Europe by one of the early Spanish ships.
‘ Modern history begins at this point, and need not be discussed here. It only seems necessary to append a list of the reigns of the emperors of the Ming dynasty, followed by another of the Manchu Tartar line, which supplanted the Ming in 1644, and is still reigning in China.
An octagonal melon-shaped wine-pot in the South Kensington Museum collection, decorated with Chinese boys playing and conjuring, is mounted in Elizabethan silver-gilt with hall-marks of the year 1585. The other four interesting pieces, also with Elizabethan mounts, belong to the Pierpont Morgan Collection, and are now exhibited on loan at the South Kensington Museum. They were shown at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1895, and are now described in the Catalogue of Blue and White Oriental Porcelain printed at the time, as coming from Burghley House, where they had been seen in the possession of the Cecil family from the time of Queen Elizabeth. A ewer, artistically painted in soft blue with birds and flowers, is mounted with a silver-gilt base, six bands formed as wreaths with cherubs’ heads in relief, a band round the neck, with lip and lid surmounted with three dolphins and a handle formed of a mermaid, with a double-twisted tail, all in silver-gilt. The last of the four pieces, a bowl, decorated with floral sprays and imperial phoenixes pencilled in typical Ming style, has the mark Wan-li (1573-1619) outlined under the foot in underglaze blue; the rest are unmarked, but are unmistakable examples of the ceramic style of the same reign.
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelain
EMPERORS OF THE rijj MING DYNASTY
DYNASTIC TITLE TITLE OF REIGN DATE OF
Al CIO Hao Nien Hao ACCESSION
_____ Hui Ti
d JAI Ch’eng Tsu
‘ Hsuan Tsung 7J–7: Ying Tsung Ching Ti
(resumed government) S 7r; Hsien Tsung
1 Hsiao Tsung
Wu Tsung Shih Tsung
;77r- Mu Tsung Shen Tsung Kuang Tsung
- Hsi Tsung
.sit n ChuangLiehTi
Hung Wu 1368
Chien Wen 1399
Yung Lo 1403
Hung Hsi 1425
Hsiian Te 1426
Chong T’ung 1436
Ching T’ai 1450
T’ien Shun 1457
Ch’eng Hua 1465
Hung Chih 1488
Chong Tc 1506
Chia Ching ‘1522
Lung Ch’ing 1567
Wan Li 1573
T’ai Ch’ang 1620
T’ien Ch’i 1621
Ch’ung Chen 1628
EMPERORS OF THE
ig Sheng Tsu
A A GREAT CH’ING DYNASTY
TITLE OF REIGN DATE OF
Nien Hao ACCESSION
Shun Chih 1644
Jatie K’ang Hsi 1662
EMPERORS OF THE GREAT CH’ING DYNASTY—Continued
|TITLE OF REIGN DATE OFNien Hao ACCESSION|
|DYNASTIC TITLEAl iao Hao411. ,77; Shih Tsung|
|Kao Tsung Jen Tsung Hstian Tsung Wen Tsung Mu Tsung|
|The Empress Dowager rules China in the present day with diminished prestige when compared with her illustrious predecessors, K’ang-hsi (1662-1722) and Ch’ien-lung (1736-1795), but undismayed withal, she wields the calligraphic brush with a firm hand on the autograph scrolls which she distributes among her adherents, and is a liberal patron of native art. Her “seals” are to be seen on many of the vases and dishes lately looted from the palace at Peking, an evidence that the fires are again burning at the imperial potteries, the scene of which is vividly pictured in the lines:|
“And bird-like poise on balanced wing
Above the town of King-te-ching,
A burning town or seeming so,—
Three thousand furnaces that glow
Incessantly, and fill the air
With smoke uprising, gyre on gyre,
And painted by the lurid glare
Of jets and flashes of red fire.”
LONGFELLOW: K eralliOS.