By Lu Chenglong
Sweden is more or less a dreamland to many Chinese people; however, few will be reminded of the Chinese ceramics collected in Sweden at the mere mentioning of the country name. The Chinese ceramics collection in Sweden, among which some are unusual pieces of art, has a large variety and can be dated back to Neolithic time. Today, with mutual effort, some of the best collections come to China bringing to the ceramics lovers a wonderful cultural feast. I went to Sweden twice for the Exhibition and am very happy to share with you my knowledge on the Chinese ceramics collected in Sweden.
Ancient Chinese ceramics in Sweden can be generally classified into two categories. The first includes the Chinese ceramics before Qing dynasty, i.e. blue and white Jingdezhen porcelain from the late Ming dynasty for the European market and the large number of Neolithic pottery collected by J.G Andersson (1874- 1960), a Swedish geologist and archeologist in China. Most of these ancient ceramics are now collections of the Ulricehamns Museum of Oriental Art, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm and the Röhsska Museum of Design and Decorative Arts in Gothenburg. The ceramics in the second category are mainly export porcelain commissioned by the Swedish East India Company in the 18th century, which are now collections of the City Museum of Gothenburg, the Maritime Museum of Gothenburg, the Antikwest Company in Gothenburg and Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm.
Ceramics could be regarded as one of the most important inventions made by ancient Chinese people. China began to export ceramics to Asian and African countries in Tang dynasty (618- 907) and then to European countries in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644- 1911) dynasties. In the 18th century, a large number of Chinese porcelain came to Sweden by the Swedish East India Company and was deeply loved by the Swedish people. Back in the early 18th century, some Swedish collectors began to study and collect Chinese ceramics, which included not only the exported porcelain of that time but also some ceramics before the Qing dynasty. Strokirk, a famous collector, was said to be a very busy man who was invited or entrusted by about 120 noble and rich families to appraise their collection of Chinese ceramics. Another connoisseur Steirn specialized in Chinese ceramics but failed to succeed because of the difficult Chinese language. Among all the museums in Sweden which collect pre-Qing dynasty ceramics, the Ulricehamns Museum of Oriental Art houses the best artifacts, in terms of both quantity and quality.
Ulricehamns is a small city near Gothenburg, with a population of only 20,000. The town is surrounded by forests, neighbored by lakes, and has a very elegant natural environment. In the center of the town is a red brick building, the Ulricehamns museum (Picture 1). This red brick building was reconstructed on the site of an old train station and is still the most renown building in the town not only because of the beautiful façade but also, more importantly, the large collection of oriental antiques. Moreover, the museum collection is based on the private collection of Dr. Carl Kampe (1884-1967), which featured Chinese ancient ceramics, gold and silver ware. As known to all, Percival David is the most famous foreign collector of Chinese artifacts. Two other collectors, who are not as well known, are Alfred Baur(1865-1951)of Geneva and Dr. Carl Kampe of Sweden.
Dr. Kampe was a member of the Swedish China Committee and began to collect Chinese artifacts in the 1930s and continued to do so till his death. His collections are mainly ceramics, gold and silver ware. In 1997, the Ulricehamns Museum of Oriental Art with the help of some funds received the whole collection of Dr. Carl Kampe. According to the book Chinese Ceramics in the Carl Kempe Collection published in December 1964, Kampe had 874 pieces of Chinese ceramics, which are categorized in the table as follows:
|Celadon from Jin dynasties, Southern and Northern dynasties to Tang dynasty||63|
|Yaozhou ware porcelain of Sung dynasty||24|
|Jun ware porcelain of Sung dynasty||4|
|Longquan ware porcelain from Sung to Ming dynasties||76|
|Celadon with Ge glaze and imperial glaze from Sung to Qing dynasties||60|
|Changsha ware porcelain of Tang dynasty||42|
|Cizhou ware from Sung dynasty to Yuan dynasty||14|
|White porcelain from Tang dynasty to Liao dynasty||110|
|Ding ware from Northern Sung dynasty to Jin dynasty||120|
|Celadon and blancede porcelain from Sung dynasty to Yuan dynasty||63|
|White porcelain of Dehua ware of Ming and Qing dynasties||71|
|White porcelain of Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties||134|
|Underglaze porcelain of Ming and Qing dynasties||7|
|Glazed porcelain of Ming and Qing Dynasties||43|
|Ming and Qing Porcelain in Doucai, Wucai and Fencai||43|
From the chart, we can see that Dr. Kampe was very fond of ancient Chinese white porcelain. Among the Tang (Picture 2), Sung, Yuan and Ming (Picture 3) porcelain he collected, many are rare pieces of the best quality. The white glazed small jar with inscription of Shang Yao Ju was made in Ding kiln of the Northern Sung dynasty (Picture 4) and is the only piece of its kind existing today. In 1950s, Mr. Feng Xianming, curator on ancient ceramics in the Palace Museum, wrote in the book Ding Kiln: Chinese Ceramics that among the excavated and existing Ding porcelain, some are inscribed with Shang Shi Ju and Shang Yao Ju on the bottom, with the former being often seen. Only one piece is inscribed with Shang Yao Ju and it was taken to Sweden many years ago. It was a bowl with a flat bottom and eggshell walls in a very unusual shape. From right to left on the surface were three characters Shang Yao Ju.
It is easy to see that this white porcelain bowl inscribed with Shang Yao Ju mentioned in the book is the small white porcelain jar with inscription of Shang Yao Ju in the collection. Some collectors found shards of this type of Ding ware in Hangzhou, however, the only intact one with inscription is in the collection of  Kempe. In the Northern Sung dynasty, the Dian Zhong Sheng Department was in charge of six divisions of Shang Shi, Shang Yao, Shang Niang, Shang Yi, Shang She and Shang Nian to take care of the imperial food, medicine, wine, dressing, ceremonial flags and carriages. In Jin dynasty, Shang Shi Ju, Shang Yao Ju, Shang Yi Ju and Shang Yun Shu became divisions of Xuan Hui Yuan. Shang Nian Ju became division of Dian Qian Du Dian Jian Si. This white porcelain small jar inscribed with Shang Yao Ju is very important to the study of the Ding porcelain and social situation in the Northern Sung dynasty.
The Ruyi-Head-Shaped Porcelain Pillow inscribed with Yuan Jia Ji of Gongxian kiln, Tang dynasty is also the only piece of its kind in the world. The pillow is in the shape of a Ruyi head with three groups of round flower patterns on the surface. There are printed flower patterns on the joints. The pillow is covered all over with a low temperature yellow glaze. The last character of the inscription is a mark. In addition to this inscription, only two other kinds of inscriptions were discovered on the Ruyi Head Shaped Porcelain Pillow. One is Du Jia Hua Zhen. The only remaining piece (Picture 6) is now in Shanghai Museum. The other is Pei Jia Hua Zhen. Three pieces of this kind are kept today and are in separated collections of the Suzhou Museum, Mr. Jin Ming in Beijing and Mr. Yang Yongde in Hong Kong. The pillows with inscriptions are very important to the study of the production of Gongxian kiln in the Tang dynasty. From them, we know that people in the Tang dynasty named this kind of pillow Hua Zhen (Decorated Pillow) and in the Gongxian kilns, there were at least three families-Du, Pei and Yuan-that made Decorated Pillows. This competition indicated the popularity of the Decorated Pillows at that time.
The Ulricehamns Museum also collected many pieces of refined Sung porcelain which represent the high level the Ding ware achieved in carving and painting techniques. The White Glazed Zun Cup with Carved Dragon Pattern (Picture 7), the White Glazed Plate with Carved Dragon and Cloud Pattern (Picture 8) and the White Glazed Plate with Carved Interlocking Peony Pattern (Picture 9) are all in beautiful shape and with good carving technique. The White Glazed Plate with Cloud and Phoenix Pattern and the White Glazed Plate with Child with Lotus Pattern, Ding kiln of Sung dynasty (Picture 10) are vividly designed and painted. The White Sitting Statue of Bodhidharma inscribed with He Chaozong of Dehua kiln, Ming dynasty is the work of the late Ming porcelain statue master He Chaozong. The style of the sitting statue is the same as that of the standing statue collected in the Palace Museum. They are very valuable because only a few pieces of this kind are passed down till today. The Bluish White Plum Vase with Carved Flower Pattern, Jingdezhen kiln, Yuan dynasty (Picture 12) is of the same shape and design as the Bluish White Plum Vases with Carved Cloud and Dragon Pattern collected by the Jiangxi Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Japan. However, this piece collected in the Ulricehamns prevails with clearer patterns. Furthermore, the Plum Vase collected by the Jiangxi Museum was excavated in a Yuan tomb in Wannian county, Jiangxi province, which dates back to 1324. It could be used as a reference in judging the age of the Plum Vase in the Ulricehamn Museum.
The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, Sweden, is well known to Chinese scholars because of its large collection of Chinese prehistoric remains discovered and collected by Johan Gunnar Andersson (1874-1960), a famous Swedish archaeologist. Sitting in the center of Stockholm, the museum was established in 1926. (Picture13) Based on the prehistoric excavations, the MFEA boosts the largest Chinese collection outside China. In the early 20th century, MFEA was a department inn the National Museum under the direction of the Swedish China Committee. In 1963, a new building was built to collect the oriental artifacts of the national museum and some private objects of King Gustaf VI (1883-1973). In 1973, with the death of the king, all his collections were donated to the museum. Among the Asian collections of the museum, there are lots of painted Chinese potteries of Neolithic time collected by Andersson, (Picture 14) bronzes of the Shang and Zhou dynasties and jade, bones and agate of the Warring States Period. Its Ming and Qing paintings are also very elegant. Among the Chinese porcelain collection, which starts from the Tang dynasty (Picture 15 and 16), the Jingdezhen imperial ware of the Ming dynasty (Picture 17 and 18) and the export porcelain of Qing dynasty (Picture 19) are especially exquisite.
Because of the close connection between Andersson and Chinese modern archeology, 13 pieces of Yangshao and Majiayao remains of Neolithic time were chosen for the exhibition to introduce the achievement in art of the prehistoric Chinese and to observe the great contribution of Andersson to Chinese modern archeology.
The Röhsska Museum of Design and Decorative Arts is a famous private museum in Gothenburg. One of its permanent exhibitions displays the Chinese artifacts collected by the Röhsska family. The ceramics exhibits cover a large variety, from Neolithic pottery to Jingdezhen ware in the Qing dynasty (Picture 20). The most outstanding pieces are two porcelain plates of Ru kiln, Sung dynasty (Picture 21). They are thin and light, with a slightly green glaze and ice crackles. There are three nail holes on the outer surface of the bottom.
Ru kiln was one of the Five Famous Kilns in Sung dynasty. The other four are Imperial kiln, Ge kiln, Ding kiln and Jun kiln. Ru kiln sites were in Ruzhou, Henan province. In Northern Sung dynasty, the court ordered kilns in Dingzou and Yaozhou to produce porcelain for imperial use. Imperial kiln was also established because it was easier to manage. The artistic taste of the emperor and the production quality decided where to establish a new kin. In late Northern Sung dynasty, Emperor Huizong was tired of the white porcelain of Ding kiln and ordered to make the sky blue celadon in Ru kiln. (Some scholars believe that Ru kiln is the Imperial kiln in the capital city.) The Ru kiln celadon has following features: the body is ash colored, the glaze is of slight sky blue. The body and glaze are thin. Most of Ru ware were fired with support and therefore three or five small nail holes can be seen on the outer surface of the bottom. Ru kiln was only used to fire imperial porcelain for a short time (some say only about 20 years) and as time has passed, not many pieces of Ru kiln porcelain are left today. According to incomplete statistics, only fewer than 100 pieces remain today and most of them were originally in the collection of the Qing court. The Palace Museums in Beijing and Taipei together have more than 40 pieces. Two pieces are in the Tianjing Museum, and eight are in the Shanghai Museum. As for overseas museums, the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art is most famous for its seven-piece Ru kiln collection. In addition, few are in the private collections in the UK, USA, Japan and China. Because of its high reputation, museums and collectors at home and abroad are all proud of their Ru ware collection. In Sweden, there are only two pieces of Ru kiln porcelain and both are collected by the Röhsska museum of design and decorative art. This fact alone is enough to make Röhsska a famous museum.
A large number of export porcelain of the Qing dynasty is collected in Sweden, among which the collections in the City Museum of Gothenburg and the AntikWest Company are the largest. The City Museum of Gothenburg is among the oldest and largest museums in Sweden dealing with cultural history. It is situated at the Grand Harbor Canal in the former headquarters of the Swedish East India Company. (Picture 22) Since the 17th century, many branches of the East India Company were established in European countries with the authorization of the government, i.e. the British East India Company was established in 1600, the Dutch East India Company in 1602, the French East India Company in 1604 and the Danish East India Company in 1614.
The Foreign Trading Firm was an organization established with special permission from the Qing government for Chinese and foreign merchants and was generally referred to as 13 firms. However, there were actually more than just 13 firms, because even though the old firms were closed, many more new ones began to appear. Even though there were lots of changes from time to time, foreign trade of the Qing dynasty was in the hands of the Foreign Trading Firms before the Opium War. The firms were in charge of selling all imported foreign goods to the Chinese and export goods to the foreigners. They were also responsible for setting the prices for all the imports and exports. On the other hand, when foreigners came to do business in China, they would not directly pay taxes to the Guangdong customs office but give the taxes to one of the Foreign Trading Firms. If anyone evaded taxes, the firm had to compensate for that. The hotel for Swedish merchants was next to that for the British and Austrian merchants. Several oil paintings and watercolors on the Hotel for Foreigners painted before the Opium War were passed down. The patterns of Hotel for Foreigners were even seen on porcelain. When in Canton, the Swedish merchants would sell the goods taken to China, repair and maintain the ship but most importantly buy Chinese product, like tea, silk and porcelain. Next March, the ship would be home bounding and would arrive in Gothenburg in July or August. In general, a journey from Sweden to China and back usually took one year and a half about 64820 kilometers.
The cargos like porcelain, tea, and silk were first moved to small boats in the port (Picture 26) and then to the Swedish East India Company through the canal to be auctioned. After the auction, these fashionable goods from China went to other parts of Sweden and Europe.
In the first half of the 18th century, China was in the glorious reigns of Kangxi and Qianlong, during the Qing dynasty. The mythic Chinese philosophy, architecture and art enchanted the Europeans. It was a fashion to dress in Chinese silk, drink Chinese tea and use Chinese porcelain. The Swedish East India Company followed this trend and gained lots of profit from the Chinese trade. It is said that the profit of one merchant ship of Swedish East India Company amounted to Sweden's gross national product at that time.
Porcelain held a very important position in the cargo shipped back from China by the Swedish East India Company. In 1724, goods from the first ship sent by the Swedish East India Company in 1723 were auctioned in Gothenburg, among which were 430,000 pieces of porcelain, 164 tons of tea and lots of silk products. The total income of the auction was about 900,000 Swedish currency. The income from the porcelain was almost half of the total income. Some say that a total of 50 million pieces of Chinese porcelain was exported to Sweden. However, because Sweden is a small country and could not take such a large amount of porcelain, much of it was transported to other European countries. The varieties of imported Chinese porcelain differed from time to time. Judging from the salvaged porcelain of the Gothenburg ship sunk in 1745, the imported Chinese porcelain of earlier times was mainly blue and white porcelain with Chinese patterns. Some plates and bowls had blue and white decoration on the inner surface and bronze glaze on the outer surface. However, the later imports were mainly decorated with famille-rose or gilt blue patterns and usually were commissioned by the Europeans.
In early armorial porcelain designs, the helmet was in the center, surrounded by Chinese patterns. We can take the armorial porcelain ordered by the Grills family as an example. Three persons from this family had been directors of the Swedish East India Company. Some emblems were designed by Christian Prech and Jean Ericrehn, the well-known Swedish artists of that time. Later, with the change of fashion, armor was no longer decorated in the important positions. They became auxiliary to other decorations and were often cautiously put on the edge of the plate.
Another type of armorial porcelain is monogram porcelain. The most famous monogram porcelain in Swedish history is the porcelain service with the Grips Holm Castle Emblem. There is the badge of the Swedish kingdom, the three golden crowns, on the blue background with the capitalized initial letter of the castle name in gold on each piece. These wares were a gift from the manager of Swedish East India Company to Gustaf III. In 1776, the Swedish East India Company commissioned a set of armorial porcelain from China for the coronation of Gustaf III (Picture 29). This service was supposed to be given to the royal family as gifts. On the outer surface of the bottom is written "1776" and in the badge is written "D. 19 Aug 1772." That means it was made in 1776 to memorize the bloodless revolution on 19 Aug 1772.
Some important persons of the cultural circle also commissioned the armorial porcelain from China. One of them was Tessin,who invited some French artists to establish the Academy of Art in Stockholm. In addition to the armorial porcelain, there were three other types of export porcelain, that is, figure porcelain covering themes of myths, religion and tradition, ship porcelain and porcelain with flower paintings.
In the Qing dynasty, the porcelain bisque was made in Jingdezhen and then transported to Canton to be painted and fired in the factories on the southern bank of the river. Liu Zifen, who lived in the Minguo period, said in Zhu Yuan Tao Shuo (On Porcelain in the Bamboo Garden), "When the sea route was newly opened, many foreigners first came to Macao, then to Canton. In the mid-Qing dynasty, Canton became a busy port city with lots of sea ships. The Europeans were very fond of Chinese porcelain, and therefore, the Chinese merchants began to fire bisque in Jingdezhen then transported them to Canton to paint in the western style. Because the bisque was made in Jingdezhen but painted at the southern riverbank of Canton, this kind of porcelain was called "Henan color"(southern riverbank color) or "Canton color." This type of porcelain began to appear in the Qianlong period and was most popular in the Jiaqing and Daoguang periods. A sample plate was made by the Chinese merchant in Canton for foreigners to make orders easier.(Picture 31) There are four different designs on the edge of the plate. Foreigners could choose the design they preferred. In 1769, an American William Hichey visited the porcelain factory at the riverbank and wrote, "In a long corridor, about 200 workers were busy with painting on the porcelain and applying different colors. There were old men and children of six or seven year old." At that time, there were more than 100 factories in Canton, enough to show the large number of export porcelain.
In speaking about Sweden's collections of exports from the Qing dynasty, one cannot fail to mention the story of the sunken Gothenburg. The merchant ship Gothenburg was one of the larger ships dispatched to China by the Swedish East India Company. It traveled, for the first time, to the port of Canton, China, during the period between January 1739 and June 1740. Two more journeys were made to Canton, from February 1741 to July 1742, and from March 1743 to September 1745. The ship was designed by the then-famous engineer. As the second largest oceangoing merchant ship of the company, a cost of 15% of Sweden's GNP was used to build it, and it was equipped with more than 140 seamen and 30 cannons on every trip. What is most worth mentioning is the Gothenburg's third journey, which took 30 months, during which the ship was filled with 700 tons of cargo, including tea, spices, ceramics, silk and rattan. The porcelain weighed a total of 100 tons, and the tea a total of 370 tons. If the cargo were auctioned in the city of Gothenburg, the estimated profit would be about 25 to 27 million kronas Unfortunately, during the third trip's homecoming, when it was just 900 meters away from the dock of the harbor, the Gothenburg ran into a rock and the entire ship's cargo sank into the vast ocean, ending the Gothenburg's mission. A salvage was soon organized by the East India Company, but only one fourth of total cargo was saved. However, it was enough to make it a profitable trip after the auction of these goods. There were many salvaging attempts in mid 19th century and early 20th century. In 1984, the discovery of the sunken boat reminded people of the ship Gothenburg. From 1986 to 1993, with the support of the Swedish government, another salvage began again, finding huge amounts of porcelain shards, tea and spice. About 9 tons of shards (Picture 32) and 400 pieces of unbroken porcelain (Picture 33) were discovered.
Chinese porcelain greatly influenced the production of European porcelain. Since the 15th century, porcelain factories were built in Italy, Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Britain, Denmark, Portugal and Belgium. Various products were made as copies of Chinese porcelain; however, most of them were soft paste and made at low temperatures, which could hardly compete with Chinese porcelain. The secret was first discovered in Germany. In 1709, he successfully produced the first real piece of hard paste porcelain in Europe. His Meisson factory boosted many outstanding artisans and made a huge contribution to the ceramics world. At the same time, Chinese porcelain accepted the Western influence in shape and design. In 1758, the Swedish Royal Porcelain Factory was established in Mariederg near Stockholm. Some of the products were brought to China by the Swedish East India Company for copying.
Cultural exchanges between different regions can promote the development of human culture. Ceramic is a product of fire and earth, and can bear the effects of erosion with little deterioration after many years. Through ceramics, we can understand more of the history of cultural exchanges. The well known Japanese scholar Mikami Tsugio named the sea route from China to Asia and Africa starting from the Tang dynasty "Ceramics Road" . The porcelain trade and friendly exchange between China and Sweden can be seen as a milestone on the Route of Ceramics.
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