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Figure - Guanyin

Guanyin

  • Object:

    Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Dehua (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1700 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Porcelain, glazed

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.548-1910

  • Gallery location:

    China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery, case 54

This figure represents the Chinese goddess Guanyin, the Compassionate Bodhisattva (literally 'enlightened being'), sitting on a rock. It was made at Dehua in Fujian province, in southern China. Fujian, a tea-growing region, attracted the attention of European merchants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and many of these figurines were brought back to Europe, where this type of white Dehua porcelain became known as 'Blanc de Chine'.

Dehua specialized in whitewares. The finest products are those with an ivory-coloured glaze, such as this Guanyin. A local publication of about 1604 describes how a 'truly fine' porcelain stone was dug by driving a shaft into the side of a hill, from where the material was then pulled out with a rope. The earliest pieces were Dehua porcelain is made of locally mined porcelain stone, with little or no clay, which thinly potted. The materials of the body and glaze integrate so well that they appear to be of a single translucent material.

The most common types of Dehua products were incense burners and Buddhist figures. Brought to Europe as exotic curiosity items, Dehua porcelain was often gilded or enamelled there in the eighteenth century - by which date Europeans were familiar with Chinese polychrome ceramics and Dehua wares may have been judged too plain. The kilns also made figures of Dutch men and women and of the Virgin and Child for export to Europe.

Physical description

This figure represents the Chinese goddess Guanyin, the Compassionate Bodhisattva (literally 'enlightened being'), sitting on a rock. It was made at Dehua in Fujian province, in southern China. Fujian, a tea-growing region, attracted the attention of European merchants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and many of these figurines were brought back to Europe, where this type of white Dehua porcelain became known as 'Blanc de Chine'.

Dehua specialized in whitewares. The finest products are those with an ivory-coloured glaze, such as this Guanyin. A local publication of about 1604 describes how a 'truly fine' porcelain stone was dug by driving a shaft into the side of a hill, from where the material was then pulled out with a rope. The earliest pieces were Dehua porcelain is made of locally mined porcelain stone, with little or no clay, which thinly potted. The materials of the body and glaze integrate so well that they appear to be of a single translucent material.

The most common types of Dehua products were incense burners and Buddhist figures. Brought to Europe as exotic curiosity items, Dehua porcelain was often gilded or enamelled there in the eighteenth century - by which date Europeans were familiar with Chinese polychrome ceramics and Dehua wares may have been judged too plain. The kilns also made figures of Dutch men and women and of the Virgin and Child for export to Europe.

Place of Origin

Dehua (made)

Date

1600-1700 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Porcelain, glazed

Marks and inscriptions

'Xin mo zi' in a square seal stamped on back

Dimensions

Height: 39.3 cm, Length: 19.9 cm, Depth: 15.0 cm

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Liefkes, Reino and Hilary Young (eds.) Masterpieces of World Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publishing, 2008, pp. 81.

Labels and date

Guanyin
China, Dehua
1600–1700

Dehua, in southern China, specialised in modelled and moulded figures, small tea wares and incense burners. They were made of glazed but unpainted porcelain stone, which fired to a beautiful creamy white. First produced for the domestic Chinese market, they
were later exported to Europe, where they became known as ‘blanc-dechine’. The Buddhist figure, Guanyin, is the Bodhisattva (‘enlightened being’) of compassion.

Porcelain, with ivory-coloured glaze

Museum no. C.548-1910 [September 2009]

Materials

Porcelain

Techniques

Glazed

Subjects depicted

自在坐; 遊戲坐; 巖; 觀音

Categories

Buddhism; Ceramics; Porcelain

Collection

East Asia Collection

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