Orientations is a bimonthly print magazine published in Hong Kong and distributed worldwide since 1969. It is an authoritative source of information on the many and varied aspects of the arts of East and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, from the latest scholarly research to market analysis and current news.
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This issue celebrates one of China’s most renowned inventions—ceramics—and relays stories from its domestic development to worldwide trade. At first glance, the popular pilgrim-flask shape in blue-and-white porcelain seems to be also modelled on a West Asian prototype, but it cannot be traced to one. This shape was a Chinese invention motivated by diplomatic exchanges in the 14th century between China and West Asia, as they were often given to tributary envoys to the Ming dynasty court as a symbol of hospitality and prosperity of the empire.
Chinese ceramics became one of the most prized commodities during the Ming dynasty as European traders brought them back to their home countries. To illustrate this history, ‘Enchanting Expeditions: Chinese Trade Porcelains Across the Globe’ at the Art Museum of the Chinese University of Hong Kong will display more than 200 pieces (sets) of trade porcelain wares from the Art Museum and other collections this fall.
The export of Chinese ceramics thus sparked many collections in the West, such as that of Ernest Grandidier (1833–1912), who installed his collection of over 6,000 porcelain items at the Louvre Museum in 1894. We move from this early 20th century collection to the contemporary collection of Cynthia Lee Johnson, a patron of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We survey a range of lotus ware, and propose that this is a distinct genre of Chinese and European ceramics which marked the beginning of a ‘global culture’.
Although less well known compared to the prominent collections of Yuan dynasty (1272–1368) porcelain in the Topkapi Sarayi in Istanbul and National Museum of Iran in Teheran (formerly at the Ardebil Shrine), the Archaeological Survey of India’s collection in Delhi is roughly twice as large. We follow the stories of three individuals and the lure of this Delhi hoard.
We return with the final part of ‘In Pursuit of the Picturesque: Jades of Qianlong’s Era from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’, in which we explore the themes, iconography, literary associations, and materials of jade mountains commissioned by Qianlong (r. 1735–96).