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HomeNewsAcademic activities
Gifts fit for kings
From:China Daily  Writer:Wang Kaihao  Date:2017-06-06
An ongoing exhibition, Mise Porcelain: Impressive Discovery and Mysterious Tribute, at Beijing's Palace Museum, sheds light on items given in tribute to emperors. Wang Kaihao reports.

For a long time, not many people understood what mise porcelain meant, although the term was encountered frequently in ancient documents dating back over a millennium.

Mise (literally, mystical-colored) porcelain was given in tribute exclusively to emperors from the late Tang (618-907) to early Northern Song (960-1127) dynasties, and it is now on show at a former imperial court.


Geng Baochang, 95, one of China's top porcelain experts, visits the ongoing exhibition featuring mise porcelain, which uses a technique that was lost after the late Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). [Photo provided to China Daily]

An ongoing exhibition, Mise Porcelain: Impressive Discovery and Mysterious Tribute, at Beijing's Palace Museum, China's royal palace from 1420 to 1911, which is also known as the Forbidden City, showcases these treasures and focuses on the relevant archaeological discoveries.

Thirteen mise porcelain articles were unearthed in 1987 from an underground altar of the Famen Buddhist Temple in Baoji, Shaanxi province.


[Photo provided to China Daily]

The world mise was carved on a stele, which was the inventory of the altar items.

While the origin of this kind of porcelain remains unclear, the discovery of ancient porcelain kilns in Shanglinhu, Zhejiang province in 2016 proved that it was a mise porcelain production hub.

The exhibition at the Palace Museum has 187 items, 120 of which are from Shanglinhu.


[Photo provided to China Daily]
 
The rest are from other sites, including the Famen Temple.

According to Wang Yamin, deputy director of the Palace Museum, the display also marks the 30th anniversary of the Famen Temple find.

"Mise porcelain, fired in the Yue Kiln in Zhejiang represents the quality and aesthetics of Chinese ceramic production from the ninth to the 11th centuries," says Wang.
 

Meanwhile, Shen Yueming, a researcher at the Archaeology Institute of Zhejiang Province, says that materials used to make mise porcelain were different from those used for ordinary celadon made in the Yue Kiln.

"It (mise porcelain) is more delicate and the colors are purer," he says.

Referring to their rarity, he says: "In historical documents, we found that even though rich people gave tens of thousands of Yue Kiln celadon articles as tributes to royal courts, there were fewer than 200 mise porcelain articles among them."

One of China's top porcelain experts, Geng Baochang, 95, who visited the exhibition, says that the production of mise porcelain was discontinued in the late Northern Song period, and the technique was eventually forgotten.

The last known mise porcelain production was in 1068, according to records of royal tributes.

"Mise porcelain is one of the biggest mysteries in Chinese ceramic history," he says.

"So, it's a major breakthrough to know the whereabouts of the kilns."

Also, compared with other porcelain types, which were exported to Europe, Yue Kiln items are not common.


[Photo provided to China Daily]
 
But, archaeologists have discovered items in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. In a related development, in 2016, the Shanglinhu kilns were nominated as a potential UNESCO World Heritage site.

Describing mise porcelain from the Yue Kiln, Jessica Rawson, a professor of Chinese art and archaeology at Oxford University, who visited the exhibition, says: "It has many qualities of jade, with beautiful surfaces and subtle colors."

She also says that it played an important role in daily use in spite of its high value, adding: "I don't think it would be fully understood in Europe, because most Europeans bought garish porcelain-white and red.

"Chinese tastes were different from Europe."

If you go

8:30 am-5 pm, through July 2, closed on Mondays; 4 Jingshan Qianjie, Dongcheng district, Beijing. The exhibition is at Palace Museum's Hall of Abstinence (Zhai Gong) in the eastern wing of the museum. No extra charge.



 
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