TIME AND HISTORY IN YOUR HAND

I collect very old Chinese porcelain. I used to have a lot more of it, but in the name of de-cluttering, I divided my collection and gave the other half to my best friend who I knew would appreciate it.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD

Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

The Chinese government has not always been diligent in managing their national treasures. Sometimes, it was a political decision. Many times, foreigners have stolen the best and most beautiful, which is why you will see so much Chinese art in English and American museums. They didn’t give it to us. We didn’t buy it. We stole it. What a shock they aren’t as in love with us as we think they ought to be.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

In recent decades, the issues have been pragmatic — lack of money. There is so much that needs preservation. The U.S. has difficulty preserving our 250 years of history. Imagine how hard — and expensive — if your nation’s history goes back thousands of years. And your country is huge and densely populated.

Suddenly, preservation becomes more than slightly daunting.

Counter point - Modern Limoge ca 1965 alongside Song dynasty vase (China Song Dynasty 960-1279 AD). I use the vase for single roses. Perfect size.

Counter point – Modern Limoges ca 1965 alongside Song dynasty vase (China Song Dynasty 960-1279 AD). I use the vase for single roses. Perfect size.

Private collectors — like me — who have become custodians of some of these very old things have an obligation to care for them. We have to make sure they will be inherited by others who will treasure them. That’s not as easy as you might think. Not everyone “gets it.” And many people have no room; they have their own stuff and can’t help with yours.

I could have sold my pots but I didn’t want them to go to the highest bidder. I wanted them to be where they would be loved. If that sounds weird, you have never collected antiquities.

Jun vase (Northern Song on through the Yuan) holds a fresh rose

Jun vase (Northern Song on through the Yuan) holds a fresh rose

When you hold one of these pieces, you hold history in your hand. Imagine how many people have held this vase, this statue, this oil lamp. How many lives this pot has touched. Imagine!

8 thoughts on “TIME AND HISTORY IN YOUR HAND

  1. Oh what a sense of history. Your photos are marvelous. Living on the west coast, especially up here in Oregon, it’s only been populated by us for only 150 years or so. There is nothing old or antique around…not really. I’m thrilled you are honoring those pieces, pure history.

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    • I think you would find down in the SF area, there are MANY Chinese antiquities because so many Chinese immigrants brought them when they came to America. Anyway, it hardly matters. You don’t (mostly) buy this stuff locally. Primarily you find it on auction sites on the Internet, though once I found a really cool old pitcher at a flea market. Mostly, though eBay and similar sites are ones hunting grounds. I’ve gotten stuff from Florida, California, the mid-west. Everywhere. People have this stuff for years then decide they need to clear out and start selling. If you are lucky, you get a piece of it.

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  2. Porcelain was one of the great technological advances. It is also something so utilitarian but then can be also a work of art. It also connects us with the grand history of mankind. A great thing to collect. What will future collectors pick from our current century? Nothing quite as marvelous, I think.

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