Talking about a piece of Song Dynasty Baby Bowl

The Song dynasty ying qing porcelain has been quite well liked by many collectors for the brilliant and bluish tinged surface of its glaze. The term ying qing literally means shadowy blue, or rather, a reflective blue colour in the glaze . The whiteness of the clay and the finesse of thecraft work not only make such piece, either it is a bowl or a dish, a kind of unique art object, but the semi egg-shelled thinness of the body gives the art form an excellent touch for the feel of the hand.

Twenty over years ago, before the Macau traders started smuggling Song antique porcelain from mainland China,  ying qing porcelain pieces were sold at a very high cost. With the influx of the smugglers in the eighties, the price took a plunge and the ying qing bowls or tea cup holders have become something very common where you can easily find in the travelling bags of these Macau people. There was no suspicion or doubt on the authenticity of these ying qing items and we were under the wrong impression or misled to believe that there had been a lot of excavation done that caused the deluge in supply. It is nothing special that the ying qing baby bowl is now a household item on the shelves of many collectors in Singapore.

It therefore came as a shocking surprise that we have learnt from the potters of Jingdezheng  that majority of the baby bowls in our hands are new fakes. The evidence given by them are that the glaze is a material with new chemical composition which is radiant and shiny, the clay is over fired in electric oven that makes the body too hard with the normal biscuit texture melted into a smooth paste. Even the surface of the glaze has been mechanically treated with irregular scratches scattering over the body, and efflorescent like particles were injected into the glaze by scraping away some glaze superficially. The carving of the floral design and the baby caricature reflects a weak execution of the strokes. This shows a metal pin or sharp object was used to carve the outline of the drawings. As such, we see a shallow print like carvings in the fakes, and the distorted outlines are simply not pleasing to the eyes (see below 4 pictures).  

weak and stiff carving

High fired and wetting looking paste 
lack deterioration of glaze on the rim

stiff and too shallow shape

On the genuine pieces, the lines would be deeper and the contour would be well depressed to produce a three dimensional effect in those genuine pieces as usually, a bamboo knife should be the right tool used for the carving during Song period. 
Lively and free carving on genuine piece

Dry looking paste on genuine piece

There is also another characteristic which tells a fake from a real piece. In the fakes, the glaze tends to be patchy and uneven, and the edge of the mouth rim is zig-zagged with tooth like protrusion to feign the mole bitten chips of song porcelain, and by the use of a normal magnifying glass, we can see there is no chips but  only the flowing outgrowths of the glaze.

We can also detect concentric rings of the throwing grooves at the foot base of fakes made in the Republican and modern times, and the body was purposely crafted to be uneven and rough to give a handmade appearance to add on the convincing factors.

Most importantly, the gloss on the glaze surface lacks the gentle and inner radiance of the Song porcelains as such pleasing and enticing shiny layer took hundreds of years to condense and ferment through tremendous chemical and physical reaction among the components in the glaze with the aid of the external elements such as air, sun light and humidity.

It is a bitter lesson for those who spent a handsome sum of money to collect such fakes, and it is an awakening experience for those who spent a even bigger sum of money to buy the ying qing pieces before the Macau traders made an inroad just at the turn of the eighty. We have discovered that these expensive pieces turn out to be the genuine and beautiful Song ying qing pieces. We  actually used to  laugh at the "pioneer" collectors who started the purchase earlier  at a high price, but we now know that genuine things should be expensive. It is impossible to dig up an unbelievable huge quantity of egg-shelled thin ying qing perfect pieces from the kiln sites as they are easily breakable. It is a common sense, and it proves the ones who laugh the last are those who laugh the best.

Written by: 

Mr Lim Yah Chiew,
Singapore(10 Feb 2001)