Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Changsha Klin Ceramics

While visiting the Museum of the Nan-Yue King, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon an exhibition of ceramics from Changsha Kilin in the Hunan province, that flourished during the Tang Dynasty. There seemed to numerous pots and vases on display but what actually captivated me was the entire hall dedicated to a private collection of ceramic pillows. The collection belongs to the museum now but it was donated to the museum is 1992 by one private collector, the Hong Kong industrialist Yeung Wig Tak. This collection of over 200 ceramic pillows is considered priceless by any standards and the public is fortunate to benefit from his generosity.

I have always been fascinated by ceramic pillows although I do not know much about them. It seems in ancient China and Japan, women slept on ceramic pillows sometimes wrapped in cloth for comfort. I only knew that in the old days many Japanese women would sleep on wooden or ceramic pillows placed under the neck to pervert them from messing up their elaborate hair-do. Of course the wealthier the person, the more valuable the pillow would be, and in this collection there were some extremely interesting pillows. They came in all shapes and sizes, some carved and painted elaborately, and others just looked like lumps of clay.

The Tang Dynasty is notorious for being the most poetic period in Chinese history so the exhibitors have made use of numerous poems strategically placed around the hall to compliment the relics.

There were also some fascinating pillows that had entire poems inscribed on them. They believed this would somehow influence sweet dreams.

I was fortunate enough that most of the relics on display were accompanied by English explanations, but not all, overall though it is not necessary to pay for a guide or interpreter. Here I even found the translation for the pillow pictured above.

Another common theme on the ceramic pillows would be the carvings of fierce animals. People believed the symbols would keep away nightmares or evil spirits. I particularly like these pillows. Some are more intricate than others of course.

Other pillow artists preferred to paint imaged on blocks of ceramic. It amazes me how after hundreds of years these pillows have retained their shine and integrity. There were also notable elements of the use of depth on some of the pictures. Some paintings were colorful and elaborate while other minimalist designs were aesthetically soothing. Even so, the painting of the crane does rest on the back of a ferocious tiger.

This is by far my most preferred ceramic pillow. Apart from being simple and elegant, it also looked most comfortable. I do not get how people slept on these things in the old days.

The rest of the exhibition was of pottery which I do not really give a shit for.


ningbo? said...

I read in the news today that a Quing dynasty bowl was auctioned off today for 10million pounds - the record price for Art sold in Asia!!!

Maybe you should also give a shit about the pottery Avi, then you could explain to me why a small bowl with a few pretty drawings on it that i could be having my Rice Krispies in is worth 10 million pounds!!

Avi said...

GAD DAMN!!! I can only think of 2 words right now. Armed Robbery.