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The Eight Friends of Zhushan ('Pearl hill')

Porcelain plaque by Wang Yeting

Porcelain plaque by Wang Yeting, one of the members of the Eight Friends of Zhushan and one of the most famous porcelain artist that helped revive Chinese porcelain art in the first decades of the 20th century. First two line of the poem are: Bamboo deep inviting guest to staying overnight Lotus quiet take breeze moment; The bamboo stretches deep to invite a night's stay, the lotus holds her breath for the guest to catch a breeze. Porcelain plate decorated by Wang Yeting around 1935, photo and a tentative translation courtesy of Simon Ng, Hong Kong.

The Eight Friends of Zhushan was a group of porcelain painters mostly active from the 19th century to the 20th century. The group was initially called the Full Moon Society and was supported by the porcelain artist Wang Yi and Wang Dafan. The last member of the group passed away in the late 1960s.

The Eight Friends of Zhushan were among the best porcelain artists of the Republican period. The group was instrumental in revitalizing the Chinese porcelain industry in the wake of the hardship that befell the whole of China after the Taiping rebellion and other uprisings and political unrest in China in the mid 19th century and after the fall of the Qing dynasty.

The group are reputed to have met on the full moon of every lunar month at Zhushan to exchange ideas on art and trade. Each of the artists specialized in different subjects and had their own distinctive styles. The whole number was not limited to eight since over the years some members came and went. It is now generally accepted there are ten artists who are to be considered as having been members of the group.

The establishing of the Eight Friends of Zhushan group was inspired by the Yangzhou Ba Guai (扬州八怪) artist group (Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou) of the early Qing dynasty.

It is generally recognized that the original Eight Friends of Zhushan was Wang Yi, Deng Bishan, Xu Zhongnan, Tian Hexian, Wang Dafan, Wang Yeting, Cheng Yiting and Liu Yucen, totaling eight peoples, with Wang Yi is the leader.

The central members of the 'Eight Friends of Zhushan' had each different artistic styles in painting on porcelain: Wang Yi and Wang Dafan mostly painted figures; Deng Bishan was good at painting fish and sea weed, Xu Zhongnan was good at painting bamboo; Tian Hexian was accomplished at painting plum; Wang Yeting was specialized in painting landscape, and Cheng Yiting and Liu Yuchen was skilled in painting flowers and birds.

The Zhushan (Pearl hill) from which the group have its name, is the high point of the former location of the Imperial Porcelain factory in Jingdezhen, and is really not much of a hill, but it would have offered a good view of the city that probably in the old times, where the skyline at night was lined by glowing fires and billowing smoke from hundreds of wood fired kilns, must have offered an spectacular sight.

Members of the group

Among these Xu Zhongnan, Wang Qi, Wang Yeting, Wang Dafan, Tian Hexian, Cheng Yiting and Liu Yuchen are known for a larger number of works, while known works are less, by Deng Bishan, He Xuren and Bi Botao.

The dates of their lifespan may be of some help when evaluating the authenticity of work by any of them since much of their porcelain artwork was dated however, since many artists with greater or less success have tried to emulate their style, it is necessary to carefully examine if the painting style, subject, as well as the style of calligraphy and seal stamp(s) are correct.

Several of the members of this group are noted for their Qianjiang style of porcelain painting while most appear to have switched to the new Fencai style, which emerged at about the same time as Qianqiang painting seems to have declined.