I am currently living on Shanghai, China. When visiting antique stores in the city and some of the neighboring old villages invariably the dealer/ owner will tell me it is:
“Ming, very old”.
Are these significant [đáng chú ý] marking etc. to look for on these pieces? Can you suggest any books to read on pieces from dynasty?
There is no easy way to separate [phân ra] “Antique Chinese porcelain pieces from Fakes or even just modern pieces. The best way to learn is to visit dealers and read everything available on the subject and most important get to handle the pieces..
You could also bring a friend that is in the same process of learning. In that way you can use 4 eyes – who does see more. Two discuss your experiences and compare notes so to speak.
There is also a lot of books on the subject I like is Oriental Blue and White by Sir Harry Garner published 1954. The third edition is the best. He is very readly even if late research has proved him wrong in some details, but that will eventually happen to everybody, and does not detract [giảm uy tín] from the overall understanding his book brings.
The most charming book that is likely ever be published on the subject is A.D. Brank- Stone. Early Ming Wares of Chingtechen. This book is a collector item in itself and I highly recommend it for the understanding of Early Ming.
To help you out a bit with book that is not out of print. You might be able to get it at the museum shop at the Shanghai Museum. Even if you don’t read Chinese, the pictures are good and you should be able to recognize the period characters in the captions.
As a final tip as for Shanghai, there is often freewheelers approaching you when you are browsing antiques markets.
They often show you a blurred [trạng thái mờ] picture and say –“Ming porcelain” – very cheap – or something of that sort and want you to follow them somewhere. My advice is to ignore [tảng lờ] these guys, at least because if they had Real Ming, they could offer to shop. If they show you the book with the picture of the piece in that book is possibly the source [nguồn gốc] the piece has been copied from.
As for sure signs of authenticity there are a few things you can try to notice. One of them is that porcelain jars and vases from the Ming and also the Qing dynasty is often heavier than their modern copies. But as always, this only holds true as long as the copyists does not know that we know – just keep this in the back of your mind since it is hard to describe [tả tỉ mỉ] when it applies.
As for the key clue to “Ming” porcelain, there is 1 feature I was told when I started to collect. It is very simple thing and has to do with the fact that the Chinese changed to source of kaolin clay by the end of the Ming dynasty.
The Ming clay bodies seem to contain [chứa, bao gồm] an iron impurity [pha trộn] which makes the unglazed parts of the porcelain body to turn into a rusty iron color when fired. This rusty red color is often seen where the glaze stops short of the foot rim. Most all “Minyao” porcelain usually also have glaze flaws [chổ sót/ thiếu] where the glaze is not entirely [toàn bộ] covering the body. Those places and the foot rim are where to look for this rather nice discoloration.
This helps but it is not infallibly [không thể sai lầm] copyists sometimes cover unglazed parts of their pieces with some brown or reddish goo [dính chất dầu/ nhờn] to fool those who have heard that old pieces should be reddish brown where the porcelain body is exposed [phơi ra]. So, use this with some caution. In time you will notice that this “Iron” content gives Ming pieces an overall “Warm” look that could be recognized and separated them from other porcelain. “Old” blue cobalt pigments have a tendency to go from dark blue to black and grey tones on “People ware” [dân dụng] pieces. This is because the potters were using local cobalt [nội hóa] that I believe also contained some iron.
The touch of “blackish” is atleast a good sign if you are looking for provincial Ming.
Modern late 19 th century pieces are often decorated with an ennoyingly [làm trái ý] dark clear blue. Look for this on ginger. Jars with big characters on. They are not “worthless” only because they are of recent make, but sometimes they look “Old” and I just think they should be recognizes as what they are.
You should look at, but particularly [tường tận/ chi tiết/ khó tánh].Feel the glaze. Good piece is very glossy [bóng ngời] and smooth to the touch. Never by anything if you don’t like to feel of the glaze. This is the basically the best rule there is. I think this had something to do with the fact that old porcelain was fired in wood fired kilns. It might also have something to with composition [tác phẩm] of the glaze, but this is too longwinded to go into. Modern porcelains have been fired with coal or crude oil since at least 1949, which contains sulfur, which actually damage the calcium in the glaze and give it a “Dry” feeling. This would hold true for most 19th century pieces that also can look “Old”.
Finally, I would like to mention1 absolutely worthless piece of advice you might find in some older texts [bài đọc/ nguyên bản] on Chinese porcelain and this is mentioning [kể ra, nói ra] of an “Orange peel” [tróc/ cởi/ bóc] effect [tác dụng/ ảnh hưởng] to the glaze by which you shall be able to recognize old pieces.
This advise really sucks because the beast old pieces, especially Imperial Ming, is absolutely smooth and some modern pieces have an “Orange Peel” glaze because [it has been applied by spraying].
So forget that.