Monday, 13 February 2017

Stone carvings

I love stone carvings.

Ever since I bought my first piece of stone carving, I fall in love with stone carvings. It is a basket full of Yangmei, a type of oriental fruits that make you mouth watery. My visitors almost reached out for the fruits as if they were real. Thanks  to the skills and creativity of the master carver. Later I bought another stone carving which is a basket-full of lychees. This time my grandchildren wanted to pick the fruits from the basket.

I admire the intelligence and skills of the stone carving artists who can turn ordinary stones into beautiful art pieces. Stone carving is an interesting art form. The artists study the stones well before they start work to create the masterpieces based on the texture and colour distributions in the stones. Sometimes a stone may seem to have a lot of imperfections on it but the craftsman can turn these defects into marvelous objects that can enhance the theme of his master piece.

My first piece of stone carving
A basket of lychees

For instance, there was a raw stone that had some black patches on it and the craftsman skillfully carved it into the face of a African leader who was seen seated beside Chairman Mao during the latter's state visit to China.

What a contrast of colour in this carving

Here a seemingly worthless stone with little good quality material could be turned into a masterpiece. It all depends on the creativity of the craftsman. He craved the quality part of the stone into bunches of grapes while leaving the majority part of the bad stone as background.

Grapes hanging on rocks
Stone carvings are beautiful pieces of art. Due to the scarcity of raw materials, these carvings are quite expensive to acquire. If they are carved by grand masters, it is almost beyond the ability of the average collectors to buy and keep them.

And this piece is priceless.
Impressive work of art - not for sale

A carving of Mei Lanfan

Mei Lanfan was a great opera singer.

A jade carving master wanted to create an art-piece to commemorate his birth. Very soon, there would be a celebration to honour the singer 120 year of his birth. As he was a great fan of the singer and he was skillful in jade carving, he wanted to carve something out of jade that could bring back fond memory of the great singer. Also he wanted it to be in time for the celebration

He began searching for the raw material in the jade market to create this masterpiece. He searched for a long time and yet could not find a suitable raw stone that could fulfill his dream.

Mei Lanfan, the opera singer
One day he stumbled upon a raw stone in the jade market. This is a piece of hetian jade ( a type of previous white jade) with some golden colour skin attached to it. Maybe this was the raw material he had been trying to find to carve and accomplish the task. He bought the stone from the vendor.

A fine precious raw jade stone
After buying the raw jade stone, he needed a theme to carve something that best described the artist. However hard he thought, he was not able to think of a theme. He needed inspiration badly as making something to commemorate this great opera singer was not a small task. Although the piece of jade was of very fine quality, the theme was equally important. Since he was a national master in jade carving, he could not simply carve something of inferior meaning, it had to be of divine nature in the subject area.

Day and night, he began to listen to the recordings of the singer in his study room. He was in need of some inspiration and yet he could not rush things. He had to let go and search in deep spirit for a theme. Suddenly when he was listening to certain portion of the opera songs on "drunken Guifei" (Mei Lanfan was famous for his role as Guifei in the opera), an idea struck him. He finally found the theme, the drunken Quifei. Yang Quifei was the Tang emperor's most adorable concubine that the emperor had to kill in order to quash a rebellion. The tragic love story between the Tang emperor and Yang Quifei can be found easily on the internet.

The artist listening to Mei Lanfan's records

Immediately he started work on the theme and produced some sketches and later transferred the theme onto the raw stone. The theme showed a pretty concubine with a Chinese fan half covering her face and a head gear with pearls on her head.

A fine sketch of the theme, Guifei portrayed by Mei Lanfan

Slowly and meticulously, he began work on the task of creating this masterpiece. He could not afford to make any mistake or else this would tarnish his work and the jade could be damage.

Work begins on the theme

Slowly and surely his work took form as he worked painstakingly to accomplish the task. One could see the image of the subject area appearing on the raw stone. He left the golden colour of the skin for the fan and the head gear of Guifei, the concubine.

The subject slowly takes form

After months of hard work, he eventually completed the task. A great masterpiece was created to the opera singer and his role as Guifei in his opera song. The jade was polished to a brilliant shine that reflected the quality of the material he chose for his masterpiece.

A final masterpiece

The jade master was satisfied with his work. He held the jade carving in his hand and kept admiring his creation. Nothing can describe his joy and sense of achievement.

One would think that he would sell his masterpiece to reap a huge profit or send it to the auction market where many people were eagerly sought after his works. With his fame and the grand-master title behind him, this masterpiece would fetch a very high price in auction.

The following day after he completed the jade carving, there was a celebration to commemorate the 120 years of the singer's birth. Immediate he set off to the house of the singer's descendant. On seeing the descendant of the opera singer, hg presented the carving to him as a gift to honour Mei Lanfan. The descendant happily accepted the gift and promised to place it in an museum that housed things of the opera singer.

Click here for more info on Yang Quifei and her tragic love story 
and for Mei Lanfan, the opera singer

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A harvest

For the past few days when I visited the vendor who put up the tent selling art-n-craft things near where I live, he had been persuading me to buy a big piece of jade disc measuring more than a foot in diameter. He kept telling me that it wasn't easy to have some jade so big in size and crafted in this shape. This round jade disc pieces are traditionally worn by young children for peace and tranquility. But they are very small in size when use for that purpose, not more than an inch in diameter. The are worn as pendants round children's neck.

I declined to buy it as I felt that it would not be easy to find a place to display it in my house. Moreover, my wife would sure to grumble that I would spent money buying this worthless thing (in her mind). I do admit that it is quite unique and I haven't see such a thing in the past. It is really not easy to find a jade that size and the quality is not bad at all.

A huge Jade Disc
Then one day, when I was looking at two more stones on display, he quickly made an offer and he thought that I would not resist the offer. He said if I were to buy the huge jade disc, he would throw in the two stones for free. But I was still not tempted as I wasn't sure where to put in the house for display. I really have too many things in the house. I was still worried that my wife would nag at me for buying so many things and clog up useful space in the house. She likes a clean house with lots of space. Each time I brought something home she would frown at me and started nagging. This experience wasn't pleasant at all. Its a dilemma. Although I don't like the nagging, but I can't help when I see something I like.

Two stones with special marks on them
Then one night, my wife told me that we needed to buy a painting to replace the one on display in the dinning room (she felt it was not that nice). I remembered that there were some paintings on display in the stall as well. Immediately I went to the art-n-craft dealer and see if I could find something there. There was one scenery type (mountains and springs) of painting but it was oblong in shape; didn't fit well in the dinning room. Then I saw this particular one and the vendor told me it was an embroidery work of art. It was woven into a painting using silk thread of different colours. I have never possess art of this sort. Immediately I made a proposal to the vendor. If I were to buy the jade disc, this painting could also be threw in for free, including the two stones that he offer earlier. The vendor thought for a while and agreed to my proposal. I paid him a deposit and took the painting and stones home. I world pay the rest the next day when I took the jade disc. He wrapped up the jade piece inside a box for me to collect the next time I visited him. This jade disc is really heavy and I really struggled to carry it hoe the next day.

Art work in embroidery
Now this painting hangs on the side wall of my dinning place. Each time I have diner, I can enjoy this work of art. It is really amazing that the Chinese people are able to create this art piece from embroidery using fine silk. The scenery has depth and shades of hues to depict a peaceful and tranquil nature.

As for the huge jade disc, it now sits nicely next to my other pieces of stone carvings. Live is indeed good when you are able to collect art-n-craft things and display them in your house. A great way to relieve stress while enjoying art.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Horses are remarkable animals. They remind us of speed, power and success.

In ancient warfare, horses played an important role in winning a war. The Mongolian army led by Kublai Khan was invincible. They were successful in conquering so many countries in Asia and other regions of the world. Their success was partly due to the strong horses they bred. These horses were hardy and journeyed long distances, winning every war for the Mongolians. This was evident for the vast land in Asia and Europe they occupied.

There is a popular Chinese saying "Success comes when the horses arrived". 

In the old days, the power of engines were measured in horse power. This shows man's respect for this animal.

I love horses as well and I have always wanted to buy a carving of a strong horse that depicts power and speed. In a local open-market stall, I spotted one that I liked and bought it. It is a wood carving of a standing horse with the character Wealth in Chinese on its saddle. On the stand there is a Chinese phrase meaning A standing horse attracting wealth. Chinese craftsmen like to put in auspicious words in the art pieces. They can sell their stuff better as people like what they see.

A standing horse
Horses also appeared in painting as well as antique artifacts.

Tang dynasty men loved horses. They created master pieces of horse sculpture and glazed them in the most traditional way using few hue.The most sought after are the porcelain horses which were glazed in three colours. They can command hefty prices during auctions. Most big museums in the world will have such horses on display. They were lovely and adorable.

A Tang dynasty horse

Horses were also a favourite subject for the Tang dynasty artist. They created numerous art pieces that depicted horses in their everyday life.
Tang dynasty painting

Contemporary artist Xu Beihong is also famous for painting horses. If you possess a horse painting by Xu, that will make you an instant multi-millionaire.
Horse painting by Xu

Monday, 9 January 2017

Year of the Rooster

Once again, the lunar new year is around the corner. This year is the year of the rooster, a good year for those who are born in the year of the horse (1894, 1954, 2014, etc), plenty of cash and fortune (read from papers).

Paper cutting of a rooster
In the area where I live, many vendors put up tents for the exhibition-cum-sale of new year goodies from cookies to art-n-craft things. Usually the open-air stores will be opened until the last day before the near year, the new year eve.

This one selling art-n-craft things

This one selling new year decorating items

This one selling flowers

Another selling art-n-craft things

I am not too keen on cookies and food stuff. As usual I will throng the art-n-craft things on display, looking for good buys. All these stores are run by people from China where they can get their stuff easily. Things like vases, paintings, furniture, figurines, etc, are on display. As the days pass, the things will get cheaper and cheaper. The vendors do not want to ship the things back to China (doesn't make sense) once the festive season is over. Moreover, they also want to go home to spend the new year with their families.

This year the art-n-craft things on display are not that interesting. The vases are very common and are mostly mass produced. Eventually I settled on some stones and tea ware. These are what I was able to buy at a reasonable price.


Fortune tree

This year is bad for business due to global recession. The vendors worry that the sale may not be fantastic as compare to last year. But I believe that the things they brought in are not attractive. The buyers have a higher expectation and they usually don't part with their money easily. Of course unless the things they see are unique and interesting.

Anyway the tea ware suits me well as I have always wanted a bigger place to brew my tea. The two stones look funny and interesting. One has features that resemble high mountains while the other with features that look like a tree, money bearing tree; plenty of cash and fortune this year.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Sage of Tea

Lu Yu  is respected as the Sage of Tea for his contribution to Chinese tea culture. He is best known for his famous book The Classic of Tea, the first work of its kind on the cultivating, making and drinking of tea.

Modern Statue of Lu Yu
Lu was born in 733 in Tianmen, Hubei. For six years Lu Yu studied under the master Zou Fuzi. During this period Lu Yu often brewed tea for his teacher and fellow students with his remarkable knowledge in tea and herbs that he learned.
Lu Yu often went to the countryside to gather tea leaves and herbs. Once he stumbled upon a spring underneath a 6-foot round rock and the water from the spring was extremely clear and clean. He brewed tea with this spring water he found the tea tasted unexpectedly better than usual. From then on Lu Yu realised the importance of quality water in brewing tea.
Zou Fuzi was moved by Lu Yu's obsession with tea and his skill in brewing good tea. He cleared the rock together with some of his students and dug a well around the fountainhead of that spring. In 1768, just over a thousand years later during the Qing Dynasty (1616–1911), Jingling was hit by drought and the whole city was badly in need of water. City folks found water still flowing from this well discovered by Lu Yu and dug by Zou Fuzi. A Qing official ordered three wells to be dug around the spring, and a structure constructed near the wells named "Lu Yu Hut" and the "Literary Spring".
In 752 Lu Yu concluded his studies, bade farewell to his shifu (teacher) Zou Fuzi and returned to Jingling. He befriended Cui Goufu, a senior officer at Jinglin, and assisted him in his administrative tasks. The two men spent much time travelling, drinking tea and writing poems and they co-authored several books on poems. Cui Goufu, with his vast experience and skill in literary work, became a coach to Lu Yu and provided him the necessary guidance to enhance and mature his writing and literary skills. During this time Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea.
The original version of The Classic of Tea consisted of 3 books covering 10 chapters in total; book 1 consisted of the first 3 chapters, book 2 consisted of chapter 4 only, book 3 consisted of chapters 5 to 10. After the Tang Dynasty all three books were bound into a single one and the three volumes version was no longer available.
A statue of Lu Yu in Xian, China

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Inside painting of cat

Recently bought an IP bottle with painting of cats.

Cats watching a bee

Cat and fruits

Details of artist enclosed: