Compiled by Robert J. Baran

Unusual Forms
Holder of Worlds


Erlitou smooth-surfaced well-levigated [ground to a fine powder] grey clay pen,
early 2nd millennium B.C.E. central Henan Province (east-southeast of Xian, Shaanxi Province),
a peculiar example of a dish with a tripartite base continuing the lines of the body.
(Source: Watson, Ceramics, pp. 17, and 18 Fig. 4c.  Per Preface, "The line figures [in this book] were copied from Chinese publications by Nicholas Watson.")

Guo Ji Zi Bai Pen water container of Western Zhou.  137.2 cm (54.0 in.) L ; 86.5 cm (34.1 in.) W ; 39.5 cm (15.6 in.) H ; 215.3 kg (97.86 lb.).  Unearthed in Baoji, Shaanxi Province (about 100 miles west of Xian).  On the inside bottom of the pen is an inscription of 110 characters.  Their location sugests that only those persons authorized to be using the vessel could see the characters.  It is the biggest bronze ware of the Shang-Zhou period discovered so far.
(Source: )

Useful nowadays for bringing trees to shows?  A  unique shallow basin on three wheels of Eastern Zhou (6th - 5th century B.C.E.).  Excavated in 1957, Yancheng, Wujin, Jiangsu Province (about 650 miles east of Xian, near the East China Sea).  15.8 cm (6.22 in.) H ; 26 cm (10.24 in.) D ; 1.65 kg (.75 lb.).  No other bronze vessel known alludes in shape to a vehicle.  Such a bold invention was possible only in regional workshops where local peculiarities could still express themselves unhampered by an established metropolitan tradition.  The casting is relatively crude and the surface decoration on the bowl is carelessly and irregularly stamped.  (And why is this particular ancient bronze currently bronze in color?  Was it refurbished between excavation and photograph or was it somehow uniquely preserved during its nearly twenty-five centuries out of sight?)
(Source: The Great Bronze Age of China,  Color Plate 65, pp. 272, 265)

Not quite so unique?  Described as a "Rare Chinese Bronze Trundle Plate w/coa" [Certificate of Authenticity], this specimen is said to be from a West Zhou Dynasty (1027 - 771 B.C.E.) tomb in Shan'Xi City.  17.8 cm (7.0 in.) H ; 33 cm (12.99 in.) L.  "After packaging net weight" is given as 9.3 kg (4.2 lb.).  Note the similarity in size and taotie design elements.  Based on the given partial information, this second wheeled pen is cruder in appearance, more massive and several centuries older.  The heavier rear wheels may be have been needed to support a heavier bowl.  This apparently was found some 600 miles to the west or northwest of the first specimen.
(Source: eBay, Winancient Cultural Relic Association, Item number: 130133777116, accessed 07/16/2007.  Note: The caption for the first wheeled pen is as originally described on this page.  The second specimen was added 07/16/2007.  Image of underside shows how axles were attached to bottom of pen.)

A third specimen, possibly made at the same time and place as the above second wheeled basin.  Described as a "Collectbile Chinese Old Bronze Vehicle Bird Plate" [sic], this specimen was not listed with any dimensions, weight, age, provenance, or history.  (RJB did e-mail the seller with questions about these, but never received a reply.)  It is different from the second wheeled piece because of its patina and the fact that the horn/spike on the back of the taotie curves more back towards the head.
(Source: eBay, bronze_collect668, Item number: 300230497456, accessed 06/07/2008.
NOTE: This same product -- based on comparison of patina-patterns -- re-offered on eBay, shipmaster79, Item number: 180277670571, accessed 08/17/2008, as "unique chinese bronze 2bird vessel tray tricycle" with the dimensions of 17 cm (6.69 in.) H ; 31 cm (12.2 in.) W ; 34 cm (3.54 in.) L [sic])

A zun (wide pitcher) with matching pen from the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng (Duke Zeng Houyi) at Leigudun, Sui Xian, Hubei Province (about 310 miles east-southeast of Xian), dating to around 433 B.C.E.  This extraordinary and rare set is characterized by decoration with an unsurpassed emphasis on energetic writhing forms, deeply undercut to produce a teeming surface.  Decorative details made by the lost-wax technique were fastened to the main body of the object, cast in a removable mold.  The piece is one of the earliest known examples of casting with the lost-art process in ancient China, predating by 200 years the previously assumed date for the method.  Both virtuoso pieces of casting, these bronzes have surfaces upon which appear to writhe dragons and tigers among a forest of tightly packed scrolls.  The enormous tomb, measuring 68 feet long and 54 feet wide, was divided into four wooden chambers -- suggesting the rooms of a palace -- and contained 15,404 relics.  Among its treasures were bronze zoomorphic figures and sacrificial vessels of exceptional design; ornamental pieces of jade, bowls, cups, spoons and buckles of gold; wood and bamboo lacquerware; and an array of weapons and musical instruments.   Eight sacrificed female attendants and a dog were with the marquis, and an adjacent chamber contained thirteen other females, some of them at least the very musicians who had served their master in life.  They were excavated in 1978.
(Source: The Great Bronze Age of China, B&w Fig. 89, pp. 258, 257;  Clunas, Craig  Art in China, pp. 25-27, Fig. 5; China's Buried Kingdoms, Time-Life Books, 1993, pp. 47, 48 with color photo)

Rectangular pan
Rectangular pen with turtle, fish, and interlacing dragon design on the exterior and interior.
73.2 cm (28.8 in.) L ; 22.5 cm (8.86 in.) H ; 45.2 cm (17.8 in.) W.
Eastern Zhou, Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.E.)
(Source: Lee, Sherman  China 5,000 Years, Innovation and Transformation in the Arts (NY: Guggenheim Museum, 1998), Plate 48, also pg. 81)

Pen bowl with eagle on short column
Pen bowl inside which, on a small column, there is an eagle ready to take flight.
46.8 cm (18.43 in.) H ; 60 cm (23.62 in.) D.
4th century B.C.E.
(Source: Zhongmin, Han and Hubert Delahaye  A Journey Through Ancient China
(New York: Gallery Books; 1985), pg. 84)

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        The allusions to an island-mountain in the sea refer to the Three Isles of the Blessed: Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou.  The legendary Chinese Immortals (hermits of perennial youth) were thought to live partly in the Western Mountains and partly on movable islands in the Eastern Sea off the coast of Shandong.  Like the Immortals themselves, these islands dissolved into mist as human travellers approached.
       The mountainous island of Penglai came to be symbolized by small temple landscapes.  By reproducing in miniature on a tray (for integrity, ease of transport, and holding of water) a realm of such religious significance, the people of earlier days gave expression to their longings for their idealized kingdom.  And from trees, lichens, moss, etc.  growing on these tiny mountain slopes came independent dwarf potted trees? 
        A second explanation traces the origins of miniature landscapes to plants raised in pots for medicinal purposes.  Plants have always played an important role in Chinese medicine, so it is easy to imagine that sooner or later someone would decide to grow plants in pots readily at hand rather than have to constantly go out to look for them.  Perhaps they were inspired by seeing how a piece of an herb spontaneously rooted in the ground or by happenstance after falling in a flower pot in use for another plant.  After a few seasons containerized, most plants might have shown at least some degree of growth slow down and/or leaf-size reduction.  Such plants, continuously trimmed, would eventually take on such a pleasing appearance that they would begin to be raised for ornamental purposes. 
        Perhaps a rock with a natural dwarfed tree growing out of it was dug up -- or a section of rock with a plant growing in it was broken off a larger stone -- and then brought back to a garden.  There the wondrous little plant was cared for, and searches were made for other natural rock plants.  Windblown seed might also have rooted and taken hold in a pocket of a larger rockery in a garden.  Then someone decided to make one for himself, possibly using post-mortem information from a natural rock tree which had died and which, amazingly, was found to have grown and lived with its roots only in a paper-thin crack or tiny hollow within the rock.  These cramped quarters could be duplicated or improved upon in a flattened bowl, a pen, which already served to hold a small piece of mountain.

Courtiers and Guests (c. 706 C.E.), detail from the wall mural 
on a corridor leading to the tomb of Prince Zhang Huai at Qianling.

Water basin with an exotic mountainscape as backdrop.  Polychrome earthenware, Tang dynasty (618 - 907).  This was perhaps the earliest physical model of an artificial hill and water pond in the history of Chinese landscaped gardens.

(Left Image Source: Han, Prof. Pao-Teh  External Forms and Internal Visions, The Story of Chinese Landscape Design (Taipei: Youth Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd.; 1992), pg. 92)

Right Image Source: Hay, John  Kernels of Energy, Bones of Earth: The Rock in Chinese Art (New York: China House Gallery; ©1985 China Institute of America), pg. 82, Pl. 47 (Fig. 20) which lists it being an 8th cent. characteristic low-fired three-color lead glazed ceramic ink palette from "grave at Zhongbao cun, Shaanxi (Historical Relics Unearthed in New China, Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1972)."

(Stein, pg. 38, b&w Fig. 19,  and pg. 40 refers to this as a polychrome ceramic inkwell that formed part of a model of a house found in a tomb from Shensi and now is in the Sian [Xian] Museum.)

       Cognizant of their true scale in and communication with Heaven and Earth, certain sages may have begun to collect and later actually make powerful concentrated representations of this relationship so as to demonstrate and maintain the balance of creation.  The utilitarian vessel which had been assigned the task of holding offerings to Heaven (or at least the water to properly cleanse oneself beforehand) was then eventually employed to define the limits of these magical miniature landscapes.

       Note: At this time, we do not yet have a continuous sequence of containers from other-purpose bronze/earthenware trays which may have been employed to hold the first magical miniature landscapes, to trays specifically designed for use this way (and without a foot?), to [possibly] standard flower pots, to containers specifically created for dwarf potted living landscapes (with or without corner feet).

       However, our recent addition of the earliest known ceramic pen (above) dating back to at least the fifth century B.C.E. shows that such containers definitely predated the sometimes pen-accompanied boshanlu which are thought to be the non-living precursors of botanic magical miniature landscapes.

       (However, remember that there is no current evidence that any of the above depicted pen were ever specifically used to hold any ancestral form of our dwarfed potted trees.  That, perhaps, would truly be the Holy Grail of these researches...)

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1.     Note:  All references in the above article to the water basin have been standardized using the spelling of " pen. " 

Wood, Frances A Companion to China (New York: St. Martin's Press; 1988), pp. 52-53;

Fitzgerald, C.P.  China, A Short Cultural History (Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 1985), pp. 18-20, 34-36;

Debaine-Francfort, Corinne  The Search For Ancient China (NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.; ©1999 Thames and Hudson Ltd., London; ©1998 Gallimard. Translated from the French by Paul G. Bahn);

Distances and directions from Xian per;

Zhongmin, Han and Hubert Delahaye  (A Journey Through Ancient China ; New York: Gallery Books; 1985), pp. 9, 11-12, 18-23, picture of bo on pg. 22 -- it seems to be only a linguistic coincidence that the pen (or pan) and bo were used in Banpo [Pan-p'o], the most famous and representative site which we know of from this time, a ditch-encircled twelve-acre village lasting from 5000 to 3000 B.C.E.   This was located at a spot that would eventually see a series of ever-larger settlements, culminating with the present day city of Xian;

Per The Chinese Exhibition, The Exhibition of Archaeological Finds of the People's Republic of China (Kansas City, MO: Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum; 1975), pg. 14, the site was excavated between 1954 and 1957;

Scarre, Chris (editor-in-chief), Smithsonian Timelines of the Ancient World (London: Darling Kindersley, Inc.; 1993, First American edition), pp. 70, 73, 77-79, 88-90;

The four line drawings of the development of pen ("Pottery Prototype," "Early Shang," "Late Shang," "Early Zhou") are from Fig. 1 by Phyllis Ward in The Great Bronze Age of China, edited by Wen Fong (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1980), pp. 4-5;

Watson, William  Pre-Tang Ceramics of China, Chinese Pottery from 4000 BC to 600 AD (London: Faber and Faber Limited; 1991), pp. 2, 13.  Per pp. 28-29, and 34: "In the last two decades of the second century BC and through the following century the ding tripod, pan dish and the 'sauce-boat' yi, all representing archaistic revivals, were lead-glazed, usually in green.  But other forms which accompanied them reflect new interests: the commemoration of domestic and landed wealth.  The ritual vessels are joined by models of tall granary jars, well-heads, stoves, equipped kitchens, pig-sties, cattle pens and figurines of domestic animals, either lead-glazed or left plain in the red-burning earthenware...
       "Among the jars a shape with the base almost as wide as the shoulder, which had appeared at the end of Western Han, now becomes more numerous.  This has the suggestion of copying directly from bronze, and it is joined by wide, shallow dishes, some on feet, which plainly imitate the bronze equivalent."
      On pg. 235 of the Index, the relevant material in the book can be found under the listing for either "pan dish" or "pen bowl."

Per "Chinese put relics' age at 7,000 years," The Arizona Republic, November 8, 1986, pg. A19, Dateline Peking, United Press International, evidence has been mounting for another civilization, the Liangzhu in southern Zhejiang province's Taihu Lake Valley region.  Lasting from perhaps 5,000 to 2,000 B.C.E., it was agriculturally-based, developed experience working jade, silk, pottery, and bamboo-weaving, and had its own written language.  We need to remember that the fossil evidence of human beings in China extends back at least some four hundred thousand years.  It would be a terrible conceit on our part to assume that no civilization of any kind existed until the last tenth of that period just because we currently do not know of or recognize any evidence of earlier civilizations.  Archaeological finds are continually being discovered, evaluated and re-interpreted. 
       Going back to the misty origins of this art, we actually have only very sketchy and incomplete details about the lives of the ancient people mentioned herein.  Many gaps have been filled based on conjecture and comparison with more recent lives.  Those earlier peoples experienced their world in fundamentally different ways six millennia ago -- or even those of four or two thousand years past -- than we do today.  We must be careful of thinking we can really understand their concrete lives and abstract thoughts.  Their tools which have been discovered by archaeologists may have a recognizable purpose that most today can agree upon, but extremely rare are the preserved dreams and beliefs of our ancestors who may have been eminently successful in nontechnological ways.  For example, see The Orion Mystery by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.; 1994) or the Forbidden Archeology project.

2.       Fitzgerald, pp. 15, 16, 21, 23, 28, 42-43, 116; Sullivan, Michael  The Arts of China (Berkeley: University of California Press; 1984), pp. 14, 22-24, 31; Fong (1980), pp. 45-47; Wood, pp. 53-55; Watson, Ceramics, pp. 2-3, 27; Chu, Arthur and Grace Chu  Oriental Antiques and Collectibles, A Guide (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.; 1973), pg. 15; Wu, Yee-Sun  Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants (Hong Kong: Wing-Lung Bank Ltd.; 1969, 1974.  Second edition), pg. 62; Koreshoff, Deborah R.  Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy (Brisbane, Australia: Boolarong Publications; 1984), pg. 2; Jellicoe, Sir Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe (consult. eds.) and Patrick Goode and Michael Lancaster (exec. eds.)  The Oxford Companion to Gardens (Oxford University Press, 1986),  pg. 111; Liang, Amy  The Living Art of Bonsai (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.; 1992), pg. 98; Chiu, Milton M.  The Tao of Chinese Religion (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.; 1984), pp. 2, 56-67; The Chinese Exhibition gives two examples of bronze pen from this time, both decorated with the kuei dragon design: B&w Plate 73 is of a vessel dating from the 16th to 11th centuries B.C.E. from Henan province, 10.5 cm high and 30 cm in diameter, and B&w Plate 103 is from 11th century B.C.E. Anhui province, 9.4 cm high and 31.6 cm in diameter; other bronze pen from the 11th and 10th centuries B.C.E. are in Watson, William  Ancient Chinese Bronzes (London: Faber and Faber; 1962, 1977, Second edition), b&w fig. 26 a,b, 26c, and 27b, text on pp. 45-46, 111.

Bavarian, Prof. Behzad  "Unearthing Technology's Influence on the Ancient Chinese Dynasties through Metallurgical Investigations," July 2005, California State University Northridge,

3.      Fitzgerald, pp. 15, 16, 21, 23, 28, 42-43, 116; Sullivan, pp. 14, 22-24, 31; Wood, pp. 53-55; Chu, pg. 15; Watson, Bronzes, pg. 45-46; Henricks, pg. 194; Fong (1980), pg. 198; The Chinese Exhibition, pg. xiv; Clunas, Craig  Art in China (Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1997), pp. 27; per Clunas Superfluous Things, Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press; 1991. Paperback edition 2004), pg. 95, "But it was in the Song period (960-1279) that a culture driven by a revivified and systematized Confucianism elevated ancient bronzes to a pinnacle of esteem from which they were never to descend.
       "The earliest extant work to be devoted to archaic bronzes is the Kao gu tu, Researches on Archaeology Illustrated of 1092, containing 211 vessels from both the palace collections and the collections of some thirty private individuals.  The catalogue entries for each piece show a rubbing and deciphering of the inscription, together with its shape, weight and provenance.  It further set up the system of classification of bronzes by period which was to be used by the majority of post-Song compilers."; Wu, 2nd, pg. 62; Koreshoff, pg. 2; Jellicoe, pg. 111; Keswick, Maggie ( Chinese Garden: History, Art & Architecture ; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.; 1978), pp. 31-33; Liang, pg. 98; Chiu, pp. 2, 56-67; Cremin, Aedeen  The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology (Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books Ltd., ©2007 Global Book Publishing Pty Ltd.), pg. 253 which states that 73 bronzes were inscribed.

       Fong, Wen C. and James C.Y. Watt  Possessing the Past, Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Tapei  (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Taipei: National Palace Museum; 1996), pg. 23 about San Pan basin.  From this very interesting work also, the following :
       The modern study of the stylistic development of archaic bronzes began in the 1930s and is by now well established, although there is further work to be done on regional styles.  When it comes to matters of interpretation, such as reading meaning into the decoration and relating period styles to life and thought, there is considerable divergence of views among contemporary scholars, especially with regard to the Shang period.
       "Attempts to provide interpretations of certain motifs were made as early as the third century B.C., just as the Bronze Age itself was coming to a close.  In the Lü-shih ch'un-ch'iu, an encyclopedic work compiled under the auspices of Lü Pu-wei (d.235 B.C.) a powerful figure in the state of Ch'in, we read: "The ting of Chou wears a t'ao-t'ieh.  It has a head but no body.  It eats a man, but before it can swallow, it does harm to itself.  This speaks of retribution."  And further: "There is a [pattern of] end[less] curves on Chou bronzes.  It curves [back] at both the top and bottom.  This is to show that extremes collapse."  The authors of these lines were referring to bronzes of the Shang and Western Chou periods made, respectively, about one thousand and about six hundred years earlier.  These explanations of early bronze motifs demonstrate the propensity of Confucian scholars in the third century B.C. (and subsequently) to moralize on any subject and are prime examples in art history to illustrate the claim by present-day metahistorians that interpretations of historical phenomena are deeply influenced by the intellectual and ideological climates of the times of the writer.  Nevertheless, these statements also show that the decorations of early bronzes does fill people with wonder.  (pg. 83)
       One of the most notable formulations [of the cultural history of ancient China] was proposed by the official-philosopher Tung Chung-shu (187-104 B.C.) in his famous response to questions from Emperor Wu (r. 141-87 B.C.): "Hsia valued chung [loyalty, faithfulness]; Shang valued ching [piety, respect]; Chou valued wen [ornament, culture]."
       During the Sung dynasty, in the wake of early stirrings of antiquarian interest and in the spirit of Confucian revivalism, scholars applied this method of formulation to the appreciation of archaic bronzes.  Thus the late Southern Sung connoisseur Chao Hsi-ku wrote: Hsia valued chung; Shang valued chih [essence, nature]; Chou valued wen; and the same applied to their manufactured vessels.  Shang [bronze] vessels have essential forms and are lacking in decoration, while Chou vessels are covered with fine and complex patterns.”  This is perhaps one of the earliest attempts to relate bronze styles to cultural context, except that Chou Hsi-ku mistakenly attributed Western Chou bronzes to the Shang and Eastern Chou bronzes to the entire Chou period.  It is otherwise a perfectly sound and acceptable correlation of style and cultural background.  (pg. 84)

       Initially there were very few antiquities in the imperial collection -- only about ten ancient bronzes even by the time of Jen-tsung (r.1023-63).  But Hui-tsung, with his love of the antique, not only collected paintings and calligraphy but also searched widely for ancient bronzes.  His interest in bronzes was infectious.  Scholar-officials vied to present him with ancient works from their own collections, and indeed the entire nation competed in their attempts to make archaeological finds.  With the country at peace, it became quite the fashion for his ministers to spend their time diligently pursuing the research of ancient objects -- discussing and interpreting classical texts in an effort to elucidate ancient rites and to determine how ritual vessels evolved.
       From 1123 to 1125, the Illustrations of Hsüan-ho Antiquities was revised and expanded to include illustrations, inscriptions, measurements, and a condition report for each of the 839 objects.  The methods of cataloguing were as scientifically rigorous as those in use today.
       Emperor Hui-tsung also exhibited his antiquities during a few banquets, they were used as models for new castings of ceremonial and ritual vessels, and some were bestowed upon high-ranking officials for use in ancestral temples.

       In 1127 the Northern Sung dynasty fell.  The Chin Tartars confiscated the imperial collections, packing much of them into 2,050 carts which were transported to Peking.  The Northern Sung imperial houses relocated to Hangchow and established the Southern Sung dynasty.  Much of this artwork was destroyed in 1158.
       As the Chin had little appreciation for the treasures they confiscated, Southern Sung emperor Kao-tsung was later able to ransom the artwork and reclaim it for the imperial collection.  Prices were high and artwork from the Northern Sung imperial and private collections eventually made its way into the tax agencies.
       The core of the collection during the Mongol Yüan dynasty was the collection of the Southern Sung.  Because the last emperors of the Southern Sung had surrendered to the Mongols rather than offering resistance, the imperial storehouses were not destroyed.
       At the end of the Yüan dynasty, the imperial collections were again confiscated and became the core of the Ming imperial collections.

       In the final years of the reign of Emperor Ssu-tsung (r.1628-44), the Ming dynasty was on the verge of collapse; with insurrections on every side, the government was in dire need of funds to replenish army supplies.  Owing to the turmoil, many water routes were blocked, preventing the shipment of copper from Yünnan.  To ward off financial crisis, bronzes from the imperial collection -- among them Shang and Chou ritual vessels and incense burners from the Ming Hsüan-te period -- were melted down for coinage, a disaster of catastrophic proportion for the Ming imperial collection.  Moreover, Ssu-tsung demanded the imperial princes and eunuchs contribute to the army's support, with the result that many imperial treasures were sold by the eunuchs in the marketplace, further diminishing the imperial collection.  (pp. 6-9)

       In 1748, the Ch'ien-lung emperor viewed the ancient bronzes and other objects in the exhibition areas as well as in the storehouses, and he commissioned a catalogue modeled on the Northern Sung Illustrations of Hsüan-ho Antiquities.  As with the Sung-dynasty catalogue, Ch'ien-lung's 1755 catalogue included illustrations of each of the 1,500 objects.  A 1781 catalogue listed 700 bronze objects.  From 1781 to 1793, two sequels to the catalogues of antiquities were written -- the first contained over 900 objects and the second 900.  According to the catalogues, there were over 4,000 bronzes in the Ch'ing imperial collection stored in various palaces and in the imperial storehouse.  Roughly half of these remain in the National Palace Museum in Taipei today.  (pp. 16-17)  [An unknown amount from the Ch'ing collection is still in mainland China.  And an unknown number have been excavated from tombs since the time of the earlier catalogues.  What painted or bronze specimens which may have been related to our researches had they not been destroyed or remade down through the centuries we can only poorly speculate about. - RJB]

       Chang, Iris  The Rape of Nanking, the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Penguin Books; 1997), pg. 70 notes that "On Dec. 2, 1937, hundreds of boxes of Palace Museum treasures -- practically the whole of China's cultural heritage -- were loaded onto a boat [on the Yangzi River] for safe storage outside the city [of Nanking ahead of the Imperial Japanese troop siege 10 days later]."

       Laufer, Berthold  Chinese Pottery of the Han Dynasty (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc.; 1909; 2nd edition 1962), pg. 7 states that per the T'u shu chi ch'êng (Vol. 1126, k'ao kung tien, Book 251, p. 2b): "On the production of flowers and fruits (i.e., oxidation) on old bronze vases and basins.  Old bronze vessels placed in the earth for a long series of years receive the vapors of the earth, which color them by producing flowers.  The color of these flowers is pure and clear, like blossoms which open speedily and die slowly.  Some die off, and then the jar forms fruits like rust arising from water (i.e., a further process of oxidation).  Thus they come down to posterity in an antiquated condition.  The same is the case also with pottery vessels placed in the earth for a thousand years."  The T'u shu... was published in Xangai in 1725/26 with 5,020 volumes (per, pg. 1.)  The Ch'in-ting ku-chin t'u-shu chi-ch'eng (full name) (Historical Encyclopedia of the Ch'in / Collection of pictures and writings from antiquity and the modern period compiled by imperial command) was edited by Ch'en Meng-lei (1651-c.1723) et al.  It consists of 6,109 items in 32 sections of 6 major categories in 10,044 chüan (chapters) in 800 ts'e and an estimated hundred million characters.  It later saw an 1885-88 Shanghai edition, a 1934 Shanghai reprint, and one in 1964 from Taipei.  Lionel Giles, M.A. produced An alphabetical index to the Chinese encyclopaedia in 1911, which gives a bit of additional background.  (Page 62 lists p'an.)  A few more details can be found here.

       David, Sir Percival  Chinese Connoisseurship: The Ko Ku Yao Lun (New York and Washington: Praeger; 1971), pg. 9 gives a more complete description of the colors and condition of genuine antique bronze, along with a short paragraph on these qualities in Faked Bronze Vessels on pg. 10.

       Finally, a late model (second half of the 15th century) gilt bronze pan (34.9 cm or 13.75 in.) with cloisonné enamels of peony-scroll arabesque design and two winged-lion handles is shown as Fig. 331 and described here, pg. 478 of Circa 1492: art in the age of exploration by Jay A. Levenson (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art; 1991).

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Unusual Forms
Holder of Worlds

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