AN ANCIENT WORLD IN YOUR HANDS – Marilyn Armstrong

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.

Very fragile — and broken. All I have left is this single photograph.

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.

Antique Famille Rose Porcelain plate

When you hold one of these pieces, you in the most literal sense 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!



Categories: Antiques and Antiquities, History, Photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. So true, Marilyn, how I look at things too!

    Like

  2. I never was into that sort of thing but often visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in Lndon. It contains pieces of the Victorian times, which was the colonial part of British history and they have rooms full of such porcelain: probably stolen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, pretty much all this stuff was stolen from somewhere, much of it from temples — especially Tibetan bronzes. I have a few of them. But on the other hand, when the Chinese took over Tibet, getting out the valuables was important. The Chinese were not inclined to protect the ancient pieces from the Tibetans. They were == at that time — busily destroying their own. They seem to have come to their senses, though and are finally protecting their ancient treasures.

      So essentially, everything we have from Asia which was not made for the west (a lot of stuff was made for sale to the English and Europeans, so that stuff was NOT stolen) was indeed stolen, but sometimes for good reason. I’d give it back if I knew it would be cared for I just want to know it will be cared for.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It doesn’t sound weird to me. You are the guardian of these pieces and you want them to be valued. I feel kind of the same about my things, not that they are particularly valuable but I’d rather give things to someone who I know will love and appreciate them rather than that they go to some relative who probably doesn’t want them anyway.

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    • I have no one to pass it to. It pains me. No one to take the dolls or the pottery. I have no idea what will become of it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I wonder what will become of my dolls when Naomi and I are gone, we don’t have kids or grandkids and if we did there is no guarantee they would want them. We get a lot of things from deceased estates come to our Op Shop and it always makes me sad that nobody wanted their things. I sometimes think I will try to rehome the dolls with other collectors before I shuffle off.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I grew up surrounded by antiques, my folks are collectors and I love the history they carry with them too. Your porcelain is beautiful I am a big fan of the plain in showy stuff, it’s simple yet stunning

    Liked by 1 person

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