Monday, August 8, 2016

Phoenix on a Bi

A bi is described as a flat jade disc with a circular hole in the centre resembling  modern day cds or doughnuts.  Bis  have been in use since Neolithic times and have various ritualistic and auspicious associations. 
The flat jade disc shown below resembles a bi except for the perforation which does not sit in the middle so I will describe it as a bi with an off centre hole,  although I can't account for the aberration.

Bi with off centre hole

The piece is flat and round, measuring  3cm across and 0.6cm thick . A phoenix, curled round a stylized border is carved on one side of the disc. Its shape and phoenix pattern  bears resemblance to the necklace closures or clasps seen on  many  of the recovered  sumptuous pei pectorals (necklaces) of the Xizhou dynasty. (1027-771BC) Such  necklaces showing the closures are also displayed  in numerous museums throughout China, so very tentatively I may ascribe this bi closure to that period.

Could be a necklace closure (clasp)

The back is uncarved except for small scratch marks near the hole,  which maybe archaic script or artists' signature.

Uncarved back except for small mark


Phoenix and bi are iconic wen wu (cultural relics)  from China.
Phoenix on a bi


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beaded Baubles winking at the Brim.....

.....and purple stained rim....

In a moment of idleness I composed this mini flower arrangement which made me think of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale

with beaded baubles winking at the brim

 The pot is a jade archers' ring filled with purple glass seed beads to hold the 2 handmade beaded daisies.

archers' ring

purple glass seed beads

handmade beaded daisies
....O for a beaker full of the warm South!
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, 
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, 
          And purple-stainèd mouth......
Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jade on the Shells 2nd Installment

After a sumptuous seafood meal at Rung Fu Ji Seafood Steam Pot  I've gotten myself a bagful of  bigger shells  than those shown on my earlier post of  Jade on the Shells *

Oyster and scallop shells

Armed with these larger shells, I have gone on to rearrange the display shown on my earlier post. Here are the pictures of my new theme Jade on the Bigger Shells.

Jade on the Scallop Shells showcase interesting composition of  jade and pearls

The scallop shell on the left has 7 tiny carved jade frogs perched amidst 13 apple green jade stones. The shell on right has a combination of various oval shaped vintage jade stones and freshwater pearls.

The shells are the placed upright  on  rosewood plate stands.
Rosewood plate stands

Shells stand out on rosewood stands

The large oyster shell  below is a perfect fit for 8 delicate emerald green pieces of antique jade (which were previously displayed on 2 smaller shells.)
extra large oyster shell

It has been a fun exercise !

 see also Jade on the Shells 1st Installment

Monday, June 27, 2016

In celebration of archaic jade birds

A Chinese dealer sold me this group of 13 jade bird pendants  and  said they were from the Shang dynasty (16th-11th century BC)  My personal, if inexpert opinion is that they could date from Shang to Xi Zhou period (1046-771 BC) as these bird forms continue to be produced into 771 BC.

13 jade bird pendants

Lest I be accused of misattribution I must hasten to add that none of the birds have been authenticated by any authority/expert. I don't know how clever forgers are these days or what are the red flags in these small pieces.  However in support of their antiquity I would name several positive if general attributes such as presence of  tool marks and traces of cinnabar, carving style is of the period, and  patina and age of the stone appear genuine

The group of  13 birds consists of a pair of swans, 4 geese, 3 parrots, 2  flat mouth birds, one swallow and the last and smallest is one  which I cannot really identify. The birds are well carved with prominent beaks and have bodies decorated with simple cloud scrolls and raised lines. The nephrite jade is mostly altered to white.
 Five of the birds in the group belong to the waterfowl family and display elegant curved necks.

Swans and geese belong to waterfowl family

Swans are symbols of beauty and they mate for life. It is no wonder they are usually shown in pairs like the ones below. The swans measure 4.1 x 2cm.

Swans mate for life and come in pairs

2 of the geese  are carved as flat pieces while   the bottom piece , slightly bigger, is carved in the round with traces of cinnabar all over its body. They display the flexibility of their necks with a charming backward turning pose.

3 geese showing off their graceful necks

The gosling is cute, has an elongated beak and a  stringing hole pierced through its body.

Little gosling, not an ugly duckling.

This pair of birds, one taller than the other,  with short, flat mouths (beaks) and short stubby legs, are also interesting.  Both have holes bored through their beaks. I wonder what bird species is being depicted. Is it an owl ? Owl carvings were popular during Shang times.

2 birds with short beaks

The 3 parrots have arched backs, crests and curved beaks. The  two bigger parrots have holes for eyes and also holes at the feet. The small  parrot  is pierced  through the body.

A trio of parrots
The swallow with folded wings look like its descending from a height.

Swallow descending

It is pierced below the neck for stringing as a pendant.  Despite extensive pockmarks and corrosion on its body it is still an attractive piece (in my eyes)

Last and least (in size) is this little charmer which I am not even sure its a bird. Are those paws or wings that are clasped together ? It has a tail and the hole is bored through the clasped wings or paws.
It measures all of 1.8 x 0.9 cm.
Is this bird or animal ?

To sum up here are all the birds again highlighted with a touch of glowing light.
Birds with a long history

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A group of small turquoise animal and melon beads

Some ten years ago I bought this group of small turquoise animal and melon beads in Fujian Province, South China.

A group of small turquoise beads

These beads have an archaic aura but its hard to pin point their exact vintage. They are also tiny measuring on average 15mm by 10mm. All have holes bored through them and may have been earrings or amulet ornaments for some  minority tribes of South China.

Modern remake,  2016

Of the eight animals only the two birds are clearly birds. But its a tad difficult to figure out the remaining six animals. Are these creatures   rabbits, pigs, wild boars, bears or other domesticated animals ?

No doubt these 2 are birds

What animals are these ?

As there is a certain amount of decomposition on some of the beads I am not sure whether they are made from turquoise or faience. They could also have been recovered from excavations.

Faience or turquoise ?

The melons from the same group have spirals in the perforations which can be seen with a loupe. Two of the melons have round shapes while the other three are flat shaped.

Perforations show spiral drill marks

Some of the animal beads have tool marks and saw marks on their bodies indicating  great age.
Close up of tool marks on the body

Well whatever their true history or vintage they are still  quite a lovely bunch.

What a lovely bunch !

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seal bead bracelet

I was happy that this flat seal bead came with a drilled perforation as it meant that I could use it as a center piece with other old beads to form a bracelet for casual wear.

Man's head, winged 4 legged beast

The seal is made from ancient carnelian and has an intaglio engraving on one side. The seller from Kashgar China said that it is a seal from the ancient silk route. I could not identify the animal and he said that it is a camel chewing on flower. On closer examination, it seemed more like a man's head, winged  4 legged beast that is indeed chewing on a flower.

An imprint on plasticine

The black is flat and plain and the perforation is drilled from both sides.
flat, plain back

Teamed up with dusky red, old Chinese beads  it is now one of my prized  bracelets.

A much prized possession !

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Carefully curated pieces of jade art

I hope the title of this post doesn't sound too grand for my little jade discards. I couldn't resist using  the catchy title  even at the risk of sounding pretentious.

Carefully curated

Each piece measuring approximately 1.5cm to 2.3cm is  hand carved from paper thin jade. Imagine the work!

Do these curious charms or amulets  some damaged and faded merit such praise? Is it art? Is it craft or is it junk? Reader and collector, I leave it to your individual discernment and taste to judge. As for me I rate them as crafty art, these neato pieces of finely carved jade depicting bamboo, flower, plant, butterfly etc.


Hand carved from paper thin jade
There is a history of more than 100 years behind these delicate but durable carvings. The artisans  worked laboriously to turn them into all things natural and auspicious,  such as plants, weeds, butterflies, bees, flowers and what have you. These in turn are assembled into artistic hairpins and other ornaments. Through the passage of time, people no longer use old fashioned hairpins and ornaments, their   live styles and hairstyles evolving towards modern jewelery and trendy accessories.  As they fall into disuse the jade pieces become detached from their gold and silver mountings. The metals are melted down and sold or recycled but jade which is indestructible are cast aside  to be rediscovered by bargain hunters at flea marts, yard sales and junk stores. Hah ! Now I really feel like a curator, narrating the life story of these charms.

life story of jade charms

I have mounted them onto red templates  arranged over a black background. I must confess that I  got the idea of such a compilation from  a photo I espied on ebay. So thank you  my ebay compatriot. I sure hope your picture sold well. And hope you pardon this copy-cat-collector borrowing your design. As the cliché goes imitation is the sincerest form of flattery :)

Jade on red templates over a black background

It was finally made into a framed picture and the treasured pieces now decorates part of my wall space.
Jade charms decorate my wall



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Restringing SK's chips

I got these 2 strands of chip necklaces from SK with whom I recently reconnected after some 20 years.

2 strands of rose quartz and aventurine chips

The top strand is aventurine and bottom strand is rose quartz. As I have not worked with chips before I turned to my teacher You tube for inspiration. This set of bracelets and earrings are the result.

Rose quartz bracelet and earrings set
With my interest stirred, I went on to make  another chip piece this time with aventurine, pearl and red bead accents

Aventurine chips with pearl and glass red beads

Thank you SK for gifting me the chips which relieved  a dull afternoon. I enjoy wearing them too.

pretty rose quartz bracelet
aventurine, pearl and red glass beads

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Monkey arrives riding a horse.....

....or Ma Shang Feng Hou, is an auspicious phrase to usher in Lunar New Year of the Monkey 2016. The symbolic meaning of this greeting is a wish for a successful life with promotional prospects. It is also a jolly pun on the Chinese words  马上风猴 which is read as "monkey riding a swift horse" and 马上封候 which is an auspicious greeting of "Immediately you will be conferred to high rank " 

To illustrate this quibble,  I have borrowed a snuff bottle from Heng. The snuff bottle with glass overlay depicting a monkey riding astride a horse aptly highlights this good luck expression.

Monkey riding on a horse is rich in asuspicious associations

I have also culled 7 playful  little monkeys from  my jade box to  celebrate the festival and  to send propitious   greetings. The little imps are either bearing longevity peaches or are exercising their agility by climbing trees.

Auspicious monkeys 2016

More monkey treasures to join the festive cheer are  two monkey statuettes below. One is carved from coral the other from jade or soapstone, both contributions from Heng.

 Monkey statuettes

The last  monkey ornament I have is carved from a curved piece of jade or soapstone. It depicts a monkey with a deer both emblems of  prosperity for the Year of the Fire Monkey.

    Hóunián jíxiáng  
Wishing all Collectors the best of Monkey Luck 2016!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Handful of Jade Rosettes

These  whimsical little jade rosettes also called yu-hua or jade flowers, date  from  late Qing (19th to about early 20th century)

Antique yu-hua
Although the rosettes are made from thin and small pieces of jade they are well shaped with attention to detail. The 12 flower blossoms are carved as rosettes with 5 petals radiating from a raised centre which incorporates  a hole. As all the pieces have only one central perforation I suspect these are likely to be hairpin components rather than buttons. 
likely to be hairpin components
Here's a circular arrangement  of 8 flowers see picture below
Circular arrangement of 8 rosettes 

 Four of the jade flowers have rounded concave petals  which have been painstakingly carved to give a scoop or tea spoon like appearance.
each petal resembles a scoop

  The largest yu-hua measures 1.4cm and the smallest 0.9cm
Largest and smallest of the floweres
There are 5 delicate protrusions at the petal's edge of the next flower which measures all of 1.3 cm
Spiked at the edge with delicate protrusions
It's a delight to hold these century old, tender jade blossoms in the palm of my hand.
A handful of jade flowers

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Favourite Books

  • Theft : a love story
  • The Uncommon Reader
  • Never Let me go
  • Angela's Angels
  • Where angels fear to tread