Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Small studies in beauty and practicality

THERE are many valuable articles besides the traditional "four treasures of the study." Nie Xin brushes up on antiques.

For ancient Chinese scholars, things in their studies were not merely for practical purposes - often they represented the aesthetic tastes of their owners.

There are many other valuable articles besides the traditional "four treasures of the study" - the brush pen, ink stick, ink slab and rice paper. Brush pots for holding brush pens are just as important as the other four "treasures."

Wang Jianxin, a local antique collector, has been a consultant for the antique store Xin Tai in Shanghai for many years. He is very interested in collecting study articles like the "four treasures," brush pots and book cases.

His favorite antique is a brush pot from the middle Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). This is a very simple cylinder made of redwood (hongmu). The wood is thick, plain and smooth without any carved patterns.

"It's the most popular style since the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It's commonly known as su style (su means plain and simple) compared with the carved ones, hua (flamboyant) style," says Wang.

Su-style brush pots were the most typical style from the Ming Dynasty. In the Qing Dynasty, complicated carving was introduced and then more sculptured brush pots developed in the hua style.

"Often it's one of the ways to judge the age besides the material," says Wang.

Antique brush pots have various styles both in patterns and materials used, but most are similar in shape and size - usually the cylinder is 18-20 centimeters high and 10 centimeters in diameter.

"People in olden days regarded this as the most suitable shape and size to hold big and thick brush pens in different sizes," says Wang.

Antique brush pots could be made of redwood, rosewood, porcelain, jade and bamboo. People might think that items made of wood or porcelain would be much more valuable than the bamboo items, but sometimes it's just the other way round.

"As the carvings on these articles usually influence the worth of the article, brush pots made of bamboo can be very valuable if there are delicate carvings on them," says Wang. "Since it was easier to carve delicate patterns on bamboo than on other woods, there are many very valuable antique brush pots made of bamboo."

For example, a bamboo brush pot from the middle Qing Dynasty carved with famous calligraphy might be worth several dozen thousand yuan now.

Many traditional Chinese patterns can be found on brush pots, including flowers, trees, birds, figures and houses.

The carvings on antique brush pots can be generally catalogued as yang carving and ying carving. The yang carving is when the patterns are raised and ying carving is when the patterns are etched. Some special carving styles like fretwork can also be found in brush pots.

The most valued carved patterns are now thought to be the ones that have calligraphy or poetry by famous artists.

"The inscriptions are very important and can raise the value of brush pots. Mostly they were carved by craftsmen, but sometimes calligraphers and painters would carve their works on their brush pots themselves," says Wang.

In the late Qing Dynasty, some different styles of brush pots were introduced, mostly influenced by Japanese styles. "They are much bigger and higher, sometimes in a hexagon shape," says Wang.

In Wang's experience, antique brush pots are one of the most popular articles among today's collectors, even beginners, as they still have a practical use and do not take up much space.

The cost of an antique brush pot today can range from 10,000 yuan (US$1,428) to 800,000 yuan. The value depends on the age, material and craftsmanship.

"The age is the most important element in valuing an antique brush pot," Wang says.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend