CATALOGUE NUMBER 1383
LARGE FAMILLE VERTE GLOBULAR TEAPOT AND COVER
KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)
Height: 8 inches
Ralph M. Chait Collection, New York
Luis Alegria, Portugal, 2006
Although wine pots and teapots are virtually indistinguishable, the large form of the present vessel would indicate its use for wine rather than tea. There is a saying, ‘Jiu yu tiandi tongshi' which means that ‘wine is as old as the Earth.’ Recent research has revealed that while this old saying is not literally true, evidence reveals signs of viniculture in China some 9,000 years ago. Excavation in the Neolithic village of Jiahu in Henan province has yielded residue of grape and hawthorn fruit wine, as well rice beer and honey mead. For more detail, see Patrick E. McGovern, Uncorking the Past,Los Angeles, 2010,
pp. 28-59. From the Shang and Zhou dynasty bronzes to the present Kangxi period wine pot, finely crafted vessels have been formed to contain and serve the illustrious beverage in both ritualistic and lay ceremonies.
The ‘Precious Objects’ represented on the present wine pot signify reverence for antiquity and by extension the long tradition of serving wine at social gatherings. Allusions to wine are popular and run deep in Chinese literature, poetry and painting. Early references are primarily in conjunction with ritual use (which is not to say that there was not abuse, the Zhou listed overindulgence of alcohol as one of the reasons that the Shang had forfeited the right to rule) but by the Tang dynasty wine consumption was decidedly worldly. One of the great poets of the era, Li Bai frequently rhapsodized on the joys of drink:
“My Flower dappled horse, my furs worth a thousand. Hand them to the boy in exchange for good wine. And we’ll drown away the woes of ten thousand generations”
--from ‘Bringing in the Wine’
During the Kangxi era, the best wines came from two places, Shaoxing wines made in Zhejiang and, Maotai in Guizhou province and both commanded very high prices. It is pleasant to imagine the present vessel filled with fragrant wine and enjoyed amongst friends. For a more detailed discussion on the subject read Norman Smith, Alcohol, Opium and Culture in China’s Northeast, Vancouver, 2012, pp. 9-16.
Text and images on this page appear courtesy of
Sotheby's New York and are excerpted from:
Sotheby's New York. Embracing Classic Chinese Culture:
Kangxi Porcelain from the Jie Rui Tang Collection.
March 14, 2014, p. 64. [exhibition catalog].