Early Chinese Porcelain In Hyderbad India
(History, Legend, and Characteristics.) Old Hyderabad China
- H. Hunt, M.A. (Oxon,)
The Times Press,
Sh. MUBARAK ALI
I/a. Lohari Gate, LAHORE.
(Paper read on 15th December, 1915.).OLD HYDERABAD CHINA. (History, Legend, and Characteristics.) BY E. H. HUNT, M.A. (OXON).
I feel highly honoured at being asked to read a paper on this subject and to commence with must disclaim any special knowledge, either of the technical or historical sides of the question.
The collection shown covers a fairly wide field, but while it cannot be considered as fully representative, yet I hope that it will encourage inquiry into doubtful points, and stimulate interest.
NOTE: This is a pretty interesting volume, giving us the chance to see the types of early Chinese porcelain in Hyderbad India which resulted from overland and maritime trade.
H. Hunt, M.A, A Flip Book, with illustrations
OLD HYDERBAD CHINA (History, Legend and Characteristics)
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Early Chinese Porcelain In Hyderbad India
Various kinds of pottery, or earthernware, have been made in almost all parts of the world, since prehistoric times. Some of this ware was beautifully made, and decorated. The Chinese, probably sometime about 1000 A.D. or earlier, began to make an improved form, white and translucent when thin. For this they used a very pure, white clay, called in their language Kaolin (" The Ridge," from the place where it was first found). This Kaolin was carefully prepared, and mixed with a powdered rock, called " petuntse," which consisted largely of felspar. The felspar element partially fused at the temperature of baking, and rendered the whole translucent.
The word " Porcelain " is derived from the Italian word " Poreellana," a cowrie shell, and is an apt comparison. This word at first included other substances, such as mother-of-pearl, but is now used to denote translucent pottery, whether it be the true " felspathic " porcelain of China, or the various wares made more recently in Europe.6
Porcelain was widely used in India long before it became known in Europe, and was used in Persia before it was used in India. Since very early times there must have been an extensive trade between Persia and China, by the overland route, and in this connection the recent explorations of Dr. Stein are of great importance. Gulland quotes an interesting reference in Hutchin's History of Dorset concerning the "Trenchard " bowl, a piece of green porcelain, presented to Sir Thomas Trenchard by Phillip of Austria in 1506 A.D. " To whom on leaving, the King presented some bowls of oriental china. These were then great rarities, as they must have passed the desert on the backs of camels. The Cape of Good Hope not having been colonised at that time."
Sulaiman in the 9th century visited China, and describes " transparent " vases made of a fine clay.* In 1004 A.D. the Chinese Emperor Chin-Tsung founded a Royal factory at King-te-Chin where from remote periods pottery and porcelain had. been made. At this period the Chinese are known to have mainly manufactured porcelain of a massive character and green colour. (Gulland.)
In 1171 " Saladin " of Egypt sent to " Nur-ed-din " on his reconquest of Palestine a present of
40 pieces of Chinese porcelain (Franks). This is the first instance I can quote of the use of porcelain by Muhammadans.
In 1280 A.D. Marco Polo visited a porcelain factory in China and mentions that it was exported all over the world.
The first porcelain used by the Persians was undoubtedly "Celadon " as made by the Chinese in the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.).
Although at first the trade route was overland, yet the sea route soon came in, and Arabs traded in it freely. After this time its use became general, and to this day plates known as Celadon, Mar-tabani, Poison Plates or Ghoris are found wherever the Arabs traded—India, Malay States, Zanzibar, etc.
Vast numbers reached Hyderabad, and form, perhaps, the most interesting group of " Hyderabad China."
- Dillon states:—
" As we know from the researches of Dr. " Hirth and others, the older, heavier pieces " were made originally at Lungchuan, a " town between the Poyang lake and the " coast ; later at Chu-chou-Fu, nearer the " sea. It was these old heavy pieces, " chiefly plates ornamented with ribbings " and other designs, fish, lotus flowers, etc., " in low relief, that were exported to Sarace-" nic lands in the Middle Ages, under the " name of Martabani (from the Gulf of " Martaban or Moulmein, whence a passable
" imitation was exported by the Siamese. " This Celadon ware was highly valued by " the Mahommedans, among other reasons " for its supposed virtue of detecting poison. " In the genuine old ware the paste, although " appearing white when seen through the8
glaze, is of a peculiar reddish tint when " exposed on the foot. The red colouring " is the criterion of genuineness for the " native connoisseur."
" The word "Celadon " is unfortunate" ly used in two senses, firstly, as a general " term where the substance of which the " vessel is made is hid from view by the " coloured glaze with which it is covered " in the other, as indicating that particular " range of greens known by this name. It " is, therefore, difficult at times to know " how to interpret the meaning of the
word " Celadon." Pieces to which the " word may be applied in both acceptations " are probably among the oldest specimens " we have of Chinese porcelain. Those sent " by the Sultan of Egypt to Lorenzo de " Medici in 1487 are said to have been " Celadon in make and colour, as is the " Cup of Archbishop Warham (1504-1532), " now belonging to New College, Oxford. " These Cups were much valued in those " days, as they were believed to possess the " virtue of acting as detectors of poisonous " food, changing colour when filled with
" anything harmful. Celadon was probably " originally the outcome of the desire of " the Chinese to imitate their favourite " jade stone in all its shades, from dark
green to milky white."
I have quoted these authors at length, and my excuse is that Hyderabad is particularly rich in specimens of this ware. Some specimens from here which I have sent to England have been compared with the " New College Bowl," and have been found identical in make. A third author who is well worth reading on the subject is Burton, who deals with the chemical aspects of the question. He points out that the Chinese, from a very early period, learned to fire their pottery at a very much higher temperature than was used in other countries (2700° F.), and that they fired the paste, or body, and the glaze, in one operation. The materials they used enabled them to do this. As a result, the oxides of iron and copper which were present in the glaze were reduced to the lowest stage of oxidation and the Chinese thus arrived at the green glazes first, whereas these were among the last to be discovered in other parts of the world.
This early green ware was everywhere looked upon as a mysterious substance, and the " poison " legend is by no means the sole legend which was connected with it.
" Thus to this day the Dyak of Borneo " regards as his most sacred treasure vessels" of old Chinese Celadon porcelain "which have been handed down with the " utmost reverence from generation to generation ; because, according to a native "superstition, they are made of the remains " of clay from which the Almighty first " created the Sun, and then the Moon. " So that the most miraculous virtues are " attributed to them in the power of curing " diseases, while no evil spirit will approach " the house in which they are kept. Similar pieces have for many centuries been " highly prized in Persia, Syria and Arabia. " Sir John Kirk, during his residence as " British Consul-General in Zanzibar formed a collection of ancient "Chinese Celadon" porcelains, many of which were dug " up from the ruins of the Arab trading " stations on the East Coast of Africa, " and with some of these Chinese coins of " the Sung Dynasty were actually disinterred. " Rear-Admiral Gissing, who was associated " with Sir J. Kirk in many of these investigations, states that a great part of this " collection was sunk in a wreck on the east " coast of Africa."10
Burton is also of opinion that the overland trade route, from the 12th to 15th century, must have been small compared with the trade by sea, and it seems probable that most of the actual specimens found to-day in Hyderabad came, not overland, but by sea.
The various names by which these pieces are known merit discussion.
It was never held by the Chinese but appears to be Persian in origin and prob ably accounts for much of their popularity Experiments show no change whatever to be caused by any ordinary poisons, either in the colour of the plate or in the food.
We have seen that the idea that these dishe detected poison reached even Europe.
It is difficult to obtain any clear opinion here as to how poison was detected, but a friend of mine who is a high official in the City has very kindly collected local views and furnished me with the information quoted below.
Three independent ideas are current:—
- " If poison was put into the dish, the dish " used to crack."
- " The specific quality of the dish is that " it at once changes its colour if any poi" sonous food which has the colour, " smell, or even taste of poisons put into " it."
- " That when any poisonous food was put " into the dish, the smell and colour of " that food at once used to be changed " from which the people used to recognise that there was poison in the food."
" Every plate having the name of " ghori ' was not endowed with this quality."
He further remarks : " Besides this I have heard that the Ghori plates were kept besmeared with castor oil as their China used to crack without it."12
This form of crack would clearly refer to " crackle " ware and may, perhaps, in part, explain the " poison " theory.
The use of " oil " is interesting. Pere d'Entre-colles, a French Missionary, who worked in China near a porcelain factory, described in 1712 A.D. the secrets of manufacture with a view to encouraging its imitation in Europe. His letters are full of interest and he always, when referring to " glaze," speaks' of it as " oil," for it is thus named by the Chinese.
This use by the Chinese of the word " oil " may perhaps have been misunderstood in India, and hearing that the Chinese " oiled " their porcelains owners here may have thought it well to follow their example.
My city authority proceeds to say—
" The Ghori was specified for the use only of Ghori Kings. Afterwards when the flood of victories of the Ghori Kings advanced towards India and China the dish became public, and was generally used by all the rulers and the artistocracy of the above countries, because in view of the circumstances of the times the lives of the kings and the artistocracy lay far more in danger."
A possible explanation of the origin of the poison idea is this.
Plates would have reached Persia in small num--hers shortly after the travels of " Sulaiman " in the 9th century. Kings would have been the first users and kings feared poison. Accidental crackle may or may not have originated a genuine belief that such marks were caused by poison. In any case, when once the power of detecting poison had been attributed to the plates, the idea would have been carefully fostered with a view to discouraging poisoners ; and all who used the plates in later years would have maintained the legend. In those days sceptics were few ; and the sceptic was in the difficult position of having to prove a negative.
To-day the sceptic meets the same difficulties. It is useless to point out that the surface of the plate is glazed with a substance which is impermeable to alkaloidal or mineral poisons : and discussion is made more difficult by the haziness of the notions as to how poison was detected. As we have seen three ideas prevail and although these mutually contradict each other, yet the legend persists in the most pleasing manner, showing to this day how such a reputation needs only to be started and it will continue without question.
- INIARTABANI.—This word seems to have been the trade name used by the Arabs and is derived from the port of Martaban near Moulmein.
The remains of an old factory have been found near by, but from fragments it is stated that they were baked upside down, so that the " ring " is seen on the upper surface. Out of many hundreds Ihave seen here none show this upper ring, but all the red ring below.14
I have lately however seen a flat Celadon bowl, obviously made after the same fashion as the usual " Ghori " here, which has an irregular patch on its upper surface, showing the typical red colour. It is difficult to make out why this patch was left unglazed, and its shape suggests that it was simply the result of carelessness. In any case the bowl was probably not supported on this patch during baking.
The word Martabani is in common use here, and denotes a form of pot, with a lid, which will be referred to later as " Siamese ware." This local use of the name is very important, since it shows that these pots probably came from Siam. It is an exact parallel to the use of the word in other countries, to denote Celadon plates, which reached them through the Arab traders.
- —From the Ghori emperors of India. Their name being derived from the town of Ghoor on the Persian-Afghanistan frontier.
This is the usual local name for the ware and is of great historic interest.
- —One can quote Dillon on this point.—
" The name is derived from Celadon, " a favourite character on the French " stage of the seventeenth century (he " first appears in the Astree, the once " famous novel of Honore D'Urfe). The " colour of his grey-green dress was fashionable at the time and the name " was transferred to a class of Chinese " porcelain then in favour."
As applied to this kind of porcelain, the name "Celadon " seems very far-fetched, and I do not think that its explanation, as generally accepted, is necessarily true.
As has been mentioned, Sal ah-ud-din, Sultan of Egypt, made a present of 40 pieces to Nur-ud-din, Sultan of Damascus, in 1170, or shortly afterwards. Within a few years of this, Muhammad Ghori was at the height of his power in India, and his name is associated with the ware.
It seems quite possible that in a similar way, the plates and bowls of this make were called " Salah-ud-din " plates in Egypt and elsewhere. The exact origin may have been forgotten, and the word transposed by the imaginative French, at the time when " Celadon " and his peculiar green coat were fashionable.
In confirmation of this, it is generally accepted that the first knowledge of Chinese porcelain in Europe came through the Crusaders, and it was for long looked upon as a substance of great mystery.
This idea of the origin of the word is not an original notion of mine, but was suggested to me, as a certain fact, by a collector here who is a high local authority on the subject, though he had not read of any use of green porcelain by Salah-ud-din, and was thus unbiassed. I have however as yet found no reference in local or other literature to bear out this contention, and the subject requires further investigation.
One bowl, a vase, a bottle, and over twenty plates of this ware are shown. Their peculiar charm lies in their infinite variety. No two plates are quite the same. Out of many hundreds one could not make a pair. Each plate is an individual effort. While their general characteristics are the same, each differs from all others in size, shape, and design. In the colour and texture of the glaze there is an even more marked variety, and this is explained by Burton's investigations. Apart from slight difference in the chemical nature of the glazes used, the final colour to a large extent depends on the exact temperature used in the kiln.16
The Chinese used wood for fuel, and one of their difficulties lay in the fact that different woods gave different results according to dampness, etc. (Pere d'Entrecolles).
Differences in colour may thus have been to a large extent fortuitous, but the differences in size, shape, and design must have been deliberate, and no attempt was made to produce similarity. This point is of interest, and is not referred to in the literature I have had access to.
Except in some of the earlier pieces, the shape is good. The design, worked in the paste, bold and pleasing. The colour is very often good, though in some dull, and uninteresting.
Every shade of sea green is found, merging in some into a blue tint, and in others into an apple green.
Crackle in the glaze is not uncommon, and one good specimen of the famous " apple green " crackle
is shown. It must have been in these plates that " Crackle " was first accidentally discovered, and then deliberately produced.
The earliest piece shown is probably one of a dull greenish colour, mis-shapen at the edge, and showing a " blob " of glaze on the side. Such " blobs " were common faults on early " Sung Dynasty " pieces. The group shown probably covers a long period of time and the latest piece is one with a dragon on it, and this is the only one which does not show the red ring underneath. It bears a mark behind which may be a date, 1074 A. H. This piece is not however shown as an old piece.
One cannot help thinking that European collectors have needlessly neglected the Ghori. It is acknowledged to be the oldest porcelain known. No question can be raised as to the plates found in India being genuine, if for no other reason than that it would be worth no one's while to imitate them at their present market value in Europe, though one hears of large prices being paid in America.
English museums are sadly lacking in specimens of plates. Here and there one sees a few pieces, usually small, mis-shapen, and of bad colour, presenting the ware in its least attractive form.
Much is still to be found here, and as each piece is offered for sale the same story comes with it, that it has been in the family of some Nawab or Mansab-dar, for generations. Legend surrounds it, the most usual one being as we have seen, that the ware detects poison. One gets little or no information as to how it came here though it is commonly accepted that it was made in China. On this point one can perhaps again quote Burton.18
" The great prevalence of Celadon " porcelain, especially in the countries " open to the Mahommedan traders during " the early middle ages, has led learned Arab " scholars like Prof. Karabacek of Vienna, " to propound the theory that this ware " was really a product of Mahommedan " skill, and had its origin in some Mahom-" medan country. This theory is, however, " untenable on many grounds, and there " can be no reasonable grounds for doubt " that the old Celadon, which must be re" garded as one of the earliest forms of CC porcelain, originated in China."
During the time of the Ming emperors of China, many other colours were used for self-coloured glazes. About thirty varieties are known, reds, blues, greens, etc. Few of colours other than green reached India, and, as I have said, the poison idea probably accounts for the popularity of this kind.
The Ghori was imported into India for use, and for use only. To this day, families eat from them. The condition of many of the pieces shown indicates use for long periods, and the ware was without doubt eminently adapted for household purposes.
The " Red Ring " deserves careful notice. It is best seen in specimens which do not appear to be very old.
Four large plates shown, all have the ring rather irregular, with the red dirty in colour and patchy.
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