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The inception and history of the song dynasty from 960 to 1279

The cow herd with his water buffalo, the fisherman in his boat, the brush wood gatherer under gnarled pine trees are idyllic scenes endlessly repeated in paintings and evoked in poetry and prose.

  1. The present delicately lobed shape, resembling a prunus blossom and often modelled with five to seven petals, is one of the most classic Song forms amongst lacquerware as well as ceramics.
  2. Nothing was off limits to the writers of Song, and with printing freely available, everything seemed to get published. The result was the 'Anti-Rightist Campaign' which saw about 300,000 people being branded as enemies of the Party and as a result many getting sent to labour camps in China's remote provinces.
  3. It therefore pervaded many aspects of everyday life and also filtered down to works of art. Sotheby's London, 16th December , lot
  4. During the Song, great advances were also made in science and technology. The inscription by Ruan Heng on the old fitted wood stand dates the calf to the Southern Song.
  5. The simplicity of the shape and the absence of any decoration are severe on the craftsmen as they are not forgiving of any defects; but they serve to highlight the elegant web of the luminous crackle.

Graham, in Cyril Birch, ed. Let me cling to a flying immortal and roam far off, and live for ever with the full moon in my arms! But knowing that this art is not easily the inception and history of the song dynasty from 960 to 1279, I commit the fading echoes to the sad wind. Few come this way, and if a stranger should, See how the birds dart off, into the wood! Shadows of dove-grey dusk the hills obscure, And gathering reach my fagot-builded door.

In a boat light as a leaf, still visible, My lad-of-all-work plies his single scull. Alone, I weave my fence, of lithe bamboo, And ducks go primly homewards, two by two. If the bureaucrat may still have been able to live this dream at least at some point in his life, this was certainly impossible for the Emperor; and yet, the same ideals prevailed even at the imperial palace. Such blissful, picturesque scenes of life in tune with nature have a strong and universal attraction, and similar ideas flourished in the West since antiquity.

He postulated the basic harmony of man with nature there, as summed up by E. The Pastoral Poems, Harmandsworth, Middlesex, [], p. Nature is fundamentally at one with man, though towns and politics and war make him a refugee from her and from the truth.

It is the shepherd and his sheep that are her nurslings and her confidants. Unlike in China, however, they remained pastoral phantasies and had few repercussions directly into everyday life. In China, this glorification of simplicity, austerity and naturalness went further; it encompassed the arts as well as the crafts. In the visual arts, it found expression in various different ways, for example, in paintings in the intimate format of album leaves and fans depicting contemplative scenes, such as tranquil landscapes and close-up studies of birds or animals; and eventually in an extreme minimalism of form, as in the ascetic renderings of persimmons in different shades of black ink by the monk Muqi c.

In the Song, the celebration of artlessness was more than a flight of fancy or a matter of taste, it was a reflection of an overarching world view. It therefore pervaded many aspects of everyday life and also filtered down to works of art.

A ceramic pot, a tray of lacquered wood, a stone pebble, so obviously non-precious and humble, could become revered artefacts.

Ceramics in particular were in use in a huge spectrum of society, from monks to drink their tea from, right up to imperial banquets. They could be basic mass-produced wares, but they equally lent themselves to extreme sophistication. Naturally, the hands of master artisans were crucially important in this elevation; yet, there always remained a pinch of unpredictability that was particularly cherished: Song ceramics are among the few works of art, where differences between good but ordinary works and outstanding masterpieces can be very subtle and require connoisseurship to be fully grasped.

This relative evaluation of desirability of two basically comparable pieces is as active today as it was in the Song, if not even more so in the case of black Jian ware tea bowls of Fujian, for example, the price of an exceptional specimen today can betimes that of a basic piece.

As many Song vessels are deceptively plain, discernment of quality requires close study and some degree of knowledge, as quality can manifest itself in all aspects of a ceramic vessel, details of proportion, subtle notions of tactility, nuances of colour, random patterns of splashes or accidental webs of crazing, and so on. Others, like those working in the Cizhou kilns, tried to appeal to our appreciation of a more rustic beauty, and sometimes of calligraphic brushwork. The same simplicity of form can be detected in carvings of jade and other stones.

Small carvings were often turned into fondling pieces, as smooth as pebbles worn down over millennia, and large boulders were only minimally shaped, both aiming to evoke a work created by nature. These works of art are anything but simple in their conception or their execution, but they try to reflect nature in a romanticised, an idealized — Arcadian — form. Plain lacquer wares of the Song dynasty are amongst the most beautiful and delicate pieces known in this media.

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The present dish is striking for its deep red colour and simple yet elegant organic form. This dish is the work of a highly skilled craftsman who has created a masterpiece that represents the refined taste of the Song elite literati. A very similar eight-lobed red lacquer dish, from the Sedgwick collection, was sold in our London rooms, 15th Octoberlot Fashioned to sit perfectly in two cupped hands, this bowl is unusual for its uniformly rounded form which features no foot or base and was probably placed on a stand.

Sanguo — Yuan, Fuzhou,pl. This form experienced a renaissance during the Qianlong period r. An extremely rare heirloom Longquan celadon bowl, Southern Song dynasty ; Mathias Komor, New York, The Georges de The inception and history of the song dynasty from 960 to 1279 Collection, no.

Christie's New York, 30th Novemberlot The Rodriguez collection label. Christie's New York, 20th Septemberlot Sotheby's New York, 23rd Marchlot With its elegant form and unctuous glaze, the present bowl is a fine example of the high-Song taste for pure colour and understated refinement. Towards the end of the 12th century, the traditional lime glaze was replaced by a lime-alkali glaze, creating a higher viscosity and softer gloss.

Multiple layers of glaze were often applied to capture a jade-like effect; a technique that was probably adopted from the Guan wares of the period. Chinese Ceramics, Tokyo,pl. Collection of Ruan Heng Kyukyodo, Kyoto letter dated to Collection of Tomioka Tessai The present iron calf, sturdily cast with a slightly raised head and an upturned mouth, epitomises the simple elegance of the aesthetics of the Song dynasty.

The calf was rediscovered in the Qing dynasty and was kept and cherished by the literati Ruan family. The inscription by Ruan Heng on the old fitted wood stand dates the calf to the Southern Song. It further states that the calf, although discovered in a tomb with a broken leg, was nonetheless treasured by the Ruan family. The calf later found its way to the artist Tomioka Tessai in Kyoto, who expressed his fondness in a long colophon following a painterly sketch of the amiable calf.

The present object can be compared to an iron ox of similar size and also with a muscular body and simple outlines, acquired in by Charles Lang Freer in Hunan province.

That animal appears to be an adult ox with a proportionally smaller head. It the inception and history of the song dynasty from 960 to 1279 an oxidised surface and can be dated to the Song dynasty or later. It is preserved in the Freer Gallery of Art accession no. In ancient China, buffaloes or oxen played an important role in agriculture and transportation. Pottery figures of buffaloes or oxen first appeared no later than the Han dynasty, but those made of metal are relatively rare.

See a larger bronze figure of a standing ox Zhuhucaotang Pearl Lake Cottagea study and library located on the Ruan family estate now within Yangzhou city was probably of special importance to Ruan Heng, who owned a related seal and named his collection of works after the cottage.

He mentioned various owners before him, who greatly admired its rare elegance and treasured it despite its rustic appearance. Tessai received a literary education focusing on Kokugaku national studyBuddhism, Confucianism, especially the school of Wang Yangming. In the s, during the Meiji Restoration, he supported the transition from the shoganate to imperial rule.

After the Restoration inin order to learn about local customs, geography and history, he travelled extensively throughout Japan and served as chief priest at various Shinto shrines. Tessai studied painting since the age of 19, but only became a painter after his return to Kyoto inat the age of His paintings and calligraphy, treasured in Japan, are held in many museums, including the Tessai Museum in Takarazuka.

Collection of Edward T. Sotheby's London, 16th Decemberlot Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18th Novemberlot Song Ceramics, Hong Kong,cat. These two wares have defined taste in ceramics like hardly any other wares before or after. These seemingly modest, crackled greenish-glazed stonewares were copied in every period, from the moment they had been created, right up to the present, but never reached. They have gained quasi mythical status. When the Song moved there, Hangzhou did not offer any of the amenities the court had taken for granted.

  • As a result of the failures of the Great Leap Forward, Mao resigned his position as Party Leader though his involvement in China's affairs only increased;
  • In 1911 the Nationalist representatives of 17 provinces met in Nanjing and established The Republic of China, ending China's dynastic rule with the forced abdication of China's 'Last Emperor', Puyi, in 1912;
  • The Silk Road, which started in Xian and headed westwards through Central Asia brought gold into China in exchange for the silks that were exported;
  • The inception of the Three Perfections can be traced to the eminent poets Li Bai and Du Fu who first instigated the inclusion of poetry into painting in the preceding Tang dynasty 618 - 907 AD.

Suitable palace structures took time to be built, levels of comfort of any kind only slowly improved, and the provision of goods and services could only gradually be assured. The supply of ceramics to the court was only one small aspect of the immense logistic challenges facing the administration, but not the least complex.

As the region did not produce any ceramics of a suitably high standard, manufactories able to produce ceramics of the highest order, unmatched world-wide, had to be built up from scratch. We do not know whether potters from the Ru kilns of Baofeng in Henan followed the Song — forcibly or voluntarily — to the South, but it seems quite possible, since after the move of the ruling house the Ru manufactories declined to the level of provincial workshops, while other kiln centres, such as Ding in Hebei, Jun in Henan or Yaozhou in Shaanxi continued to produce high-quality wares also for the court of the Jin, without any immediately obvious stylistic or qualitative decline.

In the South, different raw materials, kiln structures, firing methods and — at least partly — differently trained artisans, made a seamless continuation impossible, and that proved to be a lucky constellation, since it enabled development into a new direction.

This, luckily, does not affect the present piece. In spite of this wide spectrum, the potters of the official kilns in Hangzhou nevertheless perfectly captured in their creations — like great artists and artisans anywhere — the spirit of their times. The Song dynasty was marked by two contrasting Confucian concepts of thought, one conservative, personified in particular by Ouyang Xiuwho advocated a revaluation of ancient tradition as a source for moral principles and a guideline for righteous behaviour; the other reformist, propagated by Wang Anshiwho proposed idealistic reforms to achieve an ideal social order, and himself practiced an exemplary simple, frugal lifestyle.

Such works — like the present washer — convey a fresh and airy spirit that can equally be detected among the monochrome lacquerwares of the period, an art form that had only just begun to be appreciated. This also explains why they remain to be so influential on artists and artisans today. While one might think that in the Song, works evoking the past would have been ranked higher than innovative items, it is interesting to note the relative grading of old and new styles at the Song painting academy during the reign of Emperor Huizong r.

Wai-kam Ho relates the guidelines set for grading exams, where students were given the task to interpret in their paintings a given poetic quote Wai-kam Ho et al. The present washer, with its emphasis on tonal variation and patterns of crazing reminiscent of those manifested by nature in beautiful stones, embodies this modernity. Hardly a shape could evoke the stylistic identity of the Southern Song as well as the mallow shape with its soft and pleasing outline, without any sharp edges.

Arcadian Beauty – Exceptional Works from the Song Dynasty at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 3 october 2018

The simplicity of newly devised Song forms is already evident in Ru ware, for example, in the Northern Song washer from the collection of Alfred Clark, sold 4th Aprillot fig. Formerly collection of Alfred Clark. Only one close companion piece appears to have been published, a washer in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, of very similar shape and size, also with an unglazed foot and seven spur marks, but the glaze fired to a more opaque greyish green and showing a denser crackle, and the body fired to a darker brown.

The very glossy glaze has the most exquisite blue-green colour, a gelatinous lustre and a pleasing, satiny texture. The simplicity of the shape and the absence of any decoration are severe on the craftsmen as they are not forgiving of any defects; but they serve to highlight the elegant web of the luminous crackle. The piece appears as if carved from a boulder of a lustrous jade-like stone. New official commissions of such seemingly modest ceramics suggested cultured patronage rather than wasteful consumption and at the same time conveyed evidence of a continuation of imperial taste and style from the Northern to the Southern Song.