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Thursday, January 18, 2007 - 19:30

Cleansing the Heart: Republican Era Tea Ceramics

Alfreda Murck, Forbidden City Consultant and Researcher

United Nations

With the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Jingdezhen lost its largest patron. Emulating ceramics that had been made for the imperial court, production for the commercial market included teapots that were decorated with paintings and poetic inscriptions. The white porcelain surface was treated like the paper or silk of a painting. The designs exhibit a wide range of symbols, many of which reflect contemporary issues and values, including anti-Manchu sentiment and restoration of the Ming dynasty, founding of the Republic, and even restoration of the Manchu Qing. Other pots are distinctly a-political featuring antiquarianism, western clothing, love between women, and old fellows getting an infusion of health from little boys. In teahouses, social interaction was enhanced by a teapot that projected the owner's values and stimulated conversation.

Our expert and BIS friend Freda Murck earned her Ph.D. at Princeton University in Chinese art and archaeology with an emphasis on the history of Chinese painting. She worked in the Asian Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from 1979-1991. Since 1991 she has lived in Taipei and Beijing with her husband Christian Murck. She has published articles on Chinese art and a book on the uses of poetry in painting: Poetry and Painting in Song China: The Subtle Art of Dissent (Harvard University Press, 2000). Recently, she helped curate China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795 which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. She has taught part time at Peking University and at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and now serves as consultant and researcher at the Palace Museum.