The "Grand Father
of all porcelain collectors pages" on the Internet,
someone said.

Jan-Erik Nilsson, quick email consultation has with its prominence and longstanding position been foundational and pioneering in the field of porcelain collecting online. This site has been influential and a leader in this niche since its beginnings in 1998. Here are the three ways in which we can help.

E-mail me for a quick answer

The fastest way to get to know what you really have, is to e-mail me for a quick answer.

1,500 Free Help and Info Pages

... with Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Marks, Glossary of Antique Porcelain terms and more. This large public open-access part offers free access to more than 1,547 pages 1) such as Q&A pages, travelogues, exhibitions, new and classic documents on Antique Chinese and Japanese porcelain. A Glossary with some 900 entries and a Marks Section with more than 1,600 2) mostly dated and translated porcelain marks; All written or published here over a period of more than twenty years and still growing. The Marks Section can help you answer specific questions, but the rest is more educational in general terms.

Join our
Discussion Board and our in-house archive

If you are a collector and looking for friends with similar interest then you are welcome to join our Discussion Board. It is expert moderated and probably one of the oldest and most reliable collectors community on the Internet. You can get an idea by looking at the Gotheborg Discussion Board Topics Page. It holds more than 360,000 active messages and pictures. As a member, you will have access to a vast research archive and can also post your own pieces to have our members and expert moderators helping you with their observations, finding similar pieces, adding knowledge, translations and their thoughts. To remain independent from advertising and commercial considerations, we have introduced a small membership fee to the Discussion Board.

Help and Info page actually started with a ship...

Jan-Erik Nilsson, Raffles Hotel, Singapore. September 2004, planning to marry the said photographer.

Jan-Erik Nilsson, at Raffles Hotel, Singapore.
Photo: Cheryl Cordeiro. September 2004, planning to marry said photographer. has provided Help and Information to collectors of Antique Chinese and Japanese porcelain since December 1998. Here I will try to say thank you to a lot of people and tell some about my background, and how this page came to be.

I, live in Sweden and have collected, studied and worked with antique Chinese pottery and porcelain for more than forty years..

This page, started with a ship; The East Indiaman Gotheborg, from which this page has got its name. It came into my life at an early stage, since it was such an obvious thing to grew a lifelong interest in, if you live where I do.

In 1965, I moved to the city of Gothenburg in Western Sweden, which had been the home port of SOIC, the Swedish East India Company (1731-1813).

The memories from that period were everywhere in the old city center. Blue and white porcelain filled the antique shops. The actual former head office of the SOIC was still there, a monumental but slumbering old building, facing the inner city harbor as always.

Much later, in 1998, I decided to start this page. The Internet was barely invented. I had searched around for an on-line collector's club where I could meet other collectors and discuss things from our point of view, but I couldn't find any that worked.

The antique dealers had their fairs where they compared pieces and shared trade gossip, but at the bottom of the food chain, we, the buyers, were left to our own devices.

There were other groups and forums, but none really worked. I was looking for friends I could trust. So I poured in everything I had and slowly started to build

It soon turned out there were indeed thousands of collectors out there who felt just the same way I did.

We certainly welcome experts from the antiques trade as members. But we just try to keep business out of the discussions and, focus on helping and educating. The rewards always come with time anyway.

Please find below the story about this site and how it came to be. Just in case someone is curious why this site even exists, I figured I'll write it down somewhere. There are also many people I would like to say thank you to. Please accept my sincere apology to all I did not find space to mention by name.

Jan-Erik Nilsson

Bo Gyllensvärd and the Carl Kempe Collection

Carl Kempe Collection at the Castle of Ekolsund

Carl Kempe Collection at the Collection Room at the Castle of Ekolsund, Sweden. From left to right; Jarl Vansvik, Reidun Loose, Bo Gyllensvärd and I behind the camera. At my seat at the table are two stem cups and two white Yongle (1403-1424) period, Ming dynasty bowls we are just comparing and studying. Carl Kempe's collection was an invaluable resource to have access to. Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson, 1992.

The web site was something I wanted to create myself as a tribute to a life-long interest. Instrumental in this was the inspiring example set by my friend and mentor, Professor Bo Gyllensvärd, who always listened to and encouraged any would-be collector approaching him for help.

I felt that what I had received from him and many other great collectors and scholars was valuable and should be passed on.

Bo was a kind person who held philosophy and humanity in high esteem. I can only assume that his interest outside of the Imperial wares was fostered by his close friendship with Carl Kempe (1884-1967) and his collection at Ekolsund Castle, where I, offhand, can't remember anything that had an Imperial nian hao. Maybe one or a few Yongle (1403-1424) pieces, but that would be it. I also don't think money was even a consideration with Carl Kempe and his friends' collections.

The Carl Kempe Collection, as it was kept at Ekolsund Castle, was in many ways a mind-boggling experience. By focusing on white monochrome, most distractions were eliminated. While handling the pieces, your hands literally shared the touch of the original artists. I am forever grateful to Bo Gyllensvärd, who was the curator of this collection when we met, for having introduced me to Veronica Björling-Kempe, the then caretaker of this magnificent collection.

Another significant influence Bo shared was his study of the 'Song Shards' collected by Dr. Nils Palmgren, whose publication largely became Bo's responsibility after Nils' passing in 1955. At that time, he also assumed Nils's position as the curator of King Gustaf VI Adolf's Chinese collections, a role he held until 1973. Following Gustaf VI Adolf's death in 1973, his extensive China collection was, as their plan had been, transferred to the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities where Bo had held the position of director since 1959, a position he maintained until his retirement in 1981.

Also instrumental at the very beginning of Bo's career was the privilege to "get stuck", as he put it, with cleaning and sorting the many Neolithic pots collected and brought to Sweden by "Kina-Gunnar" Andersson from the Yangshao culture and other regions in China.

I also know that other members of the Gotheborg Discussion Board have similar tributes to pay to their special mentors.

The Götheborg III East India ship building project

Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg III after launch and naming ceremony in 2004

Our newly built replica of the Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg (lost in 1745), after launch and naming ceremony in 2004.

In 1992 my interest in The Swedish East India company and its trade made me join the small group of original initiators of a project initiated by my friends Anders and Berit Wästfelt. We wanted to revive our 18th century Swedish-China trade, by actually building a replica of the Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg lost in 1745, and to send her off again to China for a promotional trade voyage.

Anders and Berit Wästfelt had been excavating and stirring up interest in this ship and the Swedish 18th century history and our old trade to China, for years, and now everybody wanted a continuation, like building her up again and sail her to China. I was seriously looking for the old planks, but they were in a miserable condition and the ships builders told they needed oaks, fresh ones, and lots of them.

For six years until 1998 I was active more or less full time as one of a few original initiators and member of the Governing Board of this project. A marvelous adventure that as unlikely as it sounds, really happened when she departed to China in 2005-2007. As of now, she is still sailing the seven seas.

Some of the material that then went into these pages in 1998 was written in support of the ship building project. So, I built from that and up.

All the way until April 2014 the yellow background used on these web pages was a scanned sample of the Royal Charter (Privilegium) of the Swedish East India Company, 1731. Now, this is replaced by a piece of silk imported to Sweden by Johan "Kina-Gunnar" Andersson and handed over to Brita Anjou, who passed it on to me together with some other memorabilia.

Most of the early material was intended to become a research resource about the Swedish East India trade in general in support of the ship building project. From 1998 my focus went into my personal interest in the human side of the travels, the traces of cultural exchange it left - and back to the Chinese porcelain that sparked my curiosity in the very beginning.

Creating a Collectors Meeting Place on the Internet

To look back at this some twenty five years later, when social media has become a normal part of life, feels funny to say the least. The whole concept about an Online Community was hardly invented yet, and to create something like that for antiques, was ground breaking. But, collectors from the whole world caught up at once. Another thing that wasn't invented yet was spam, so I had an open 'Guest Book' that visitors could leave message in at will.

Public authentications at Malmö Museum 

Public authentications at Malmö Museum
Photo courtesy of Helsingborgs Dagblad

Occasionally, I had participated in some Antiques Road Show type events at museums and antique fairs, which I thought were really fun. From these events, I knew how curious people were about the mysterious pieces left to them by older relatives, now adorning shelves or their dining room walls. These pieces were often porcelain, decorated with oriental-looking figures in strange river landscapes, embellished with oversized flowers, and maybe with some mysterious characters on their bases. It occurred to me that it would be fun if I could do this online.

What I wanted to do was to hold these authentications online — in "broad daylight" so to speak - where anyone with a differing opinion could have their say too. I also did not mind just sitting back to listen and learn. This is a very difficult area, and no one knows everything.

So, I decided to try to create an online presence, a virtual collector's club, where collectors could meet and discuss anything, mostly focused around their own pieces.

However, at that time the internet was young, and any commercial software that could facilitate this did not exist. This was the era of manual HTML coding — page by page — if you wanted to put anything online.

1999 to 2000
the email "List" period

1 one List graphics

The first attempt to organize something was via public email lists, where you created a topic, and let people sign up and start sending emails to each other.

The 27th of June 1999 I started an email-based "discussion list", initially with an organization called ONElist, which in February 2000 merged into something called eGroups that eventually was sold to Yahoo.

Old-timers who experienced the mailing lists period will probably still remember with a smile the flurry of activity every new question that was posted would set off. Everyone jumped in and tried to be first who posted an answer. Sometimes we dived headlong into the discussion, giving a completely wrong answer but, surprisingly, not that often. It was crucial that any question was dealt with at once, because as soon as the next question came up, the first would fade away and the interest would shift to the next and the next questions. However, this was all new to us. It worked. Good people signed up one by one, and the list grew and grew.

I could not help thinking this was an enormous waste of good knowledge and good writing that was lost and just flushed down into email cyberspace.

So I also began inviting visitors to my web page to email me questions and pictures. I then turned these email into Q&A web pages and published them, one by one, together with my answers, for every area where I felt I had anything to contribute. Feedback were encouraged and came via email, which I promptly added to the Q&A pages. All manually. I also opened a public Guest Book which was very nice for many years until the spam robots were invented.

A few months later, the 1st of September 2000, Mike Vermeer of Vermeer & Griggs in Los Angeles, emailed me and asked if he could put up a link to my site. He explained that he had wanted to set up something similar but felt he could as well help me out in my efforts, instead of doing it on his own. Mike eventually joined the email List, and later the Discussion Board, where his writings on Imperial porcelain and Chinese taste, special glazes and monochromes remains as beacons of scholarship.

Early, 2000
marks section started, now more than 1,500
Chinese and Japanese Marks

The Japanese marks section of originally came to be thanks to a donation of Japanese marks images from Karl-Hans Schneider, Euskirchen, Germany, in May 2000, that gave me a modest but nonetheless beginning. It was a kind gesture and I really appreciated that. I have never heard one word from this person again.

Of the many later contributors I would especially want to mention Albert Becker, Somerset, UK, who were the first to help with some translations and comments on the Japanese marks. His work was than greatly extended by Ms. Gloria S. Garaventa after which Mr. John Avery looked into and corrected some of the dates. Most of the Satsuma marks were originally submitted by Ms. Michaela Russell, Brisbane, Australia. A section which was then greatly extended by Ian & Mary Heriot of which a large amount of information still awaits publication. A warm thank you also goes to John R. Skeens, Florida, U.S.A. and Toru Yoshikawa for the Kitagawa Togei section and to Susan Eades for her help and encouragement towards the creation of the Moriyama section.

For a later full overhaul of the Satsuma and Kutani sections, I want to say thank you to Howard Reed, Australia. The most recent larger contribution was made by Lisa M. Surowiec, New Jersey, USA. From 2004 and then on, my warm thank you goes to John Wocher and Howard Reed whose knowledge and interest has sparked a new life into this section and given reason for a new overhauls.

A few moths later, in April 3, 2000, I got an email from Simon Ng at the City University of Hong Kong, who was also a dedicated collector, and wanted to be added to our List. Simon became the ideal partner in creating the CHINESE MARKS section. Today this section is one of the most referenced public pages on the site. It would not have been possible without Simon Ng, whose translations and personal efforts in researching the origin and dates of all these different marks was an indispensable help and, really fun. It has since been much extended by several contributors such as Cordelia Bay, USA, Walt Brygier, USA, Bonnie Hoffmann, Harmen Lensink, 'Tony' Yalin Zhang, Beijing and 'ScottLoar', Shanghai, and many more expert members of the Gotheborg Discussion Board.

Thank you again and thank you to all I have not mentioned here, for all help and interest.

April 2003
we drop the email lists and move
to our own Discussion Board software

In April 23, 2003 Yahoo had grown too busy making money to fit our needs, drowning our messages under tons of advertising, so a new platform was needed. By recommendation from of our member Lee Inness-Brown, I bought and integrated a very solid Discussion Board software with our own website, which we still use.

From now on, any number of discussions could go on at the same time, organized under nearly one hundred different topics. Members could add any number of pictures to their posts, and choose from a list which topics they wanted to follow via email, or just read via the web browser. And best of all, we could keep everything we wanted to, in our own archive. Nothing would ever get drowned in advertising, or disappear, due to some company or other being sold, going bankrupt or changing their policies.

Late 2003
Porcelain Dictionary and Glossary of Terms

By the end of 2003 I started to piece together all the bits and pieces of information we were often referring to, and collected all this into the Porcelain Dictionary and Glossary of Terms we now have with some 900 entries, still growing.

In February 2005 my admiration for Georges Bouvier and his specialist's site on Kutani grew into an invitation to join forces. This had already begun with his friend John Wocher joining us as a moderator in June 2004, about a year earlier. From that time with the help of many more specialists the Japanese section rapidly became at least as active as the Chinese section.

In 2006
and then again
Alone on our own server

Around 2005 our archive of Discussion Board messages and pictures had grown so large that it was not feasible to run it from a normal web hotel, and our web host FS Data had started to send angry letters.

On Friday the 3rd January 2006 I signed the contract to have the Discussion Board moved to a full server, Dedi39, of our own, where we got more space.

After a long discussion at the Board we decided to introduce a modest membership fee to cover the cost of this server and keep the original policy of the original list, to say no to any advertising and any corporate sponsorship.

From 1st of July 2021 we then again took the necessary step to migrate the entire Website and Forum to a completely new server with vastly larger capacity, that we are now running on. A large part of the software was necessary to be rewritten to function in a new and much more modern environment.

Thank you, all who have and are still helping

Over the years many thousand brilliant members have contributed to these pages. I am sorry about needing to leave out so many important contributors but I would still like to mention a few of the names that comes to mind after more than twenty active years, like Tommy Eklöf, Sal, Hans Slager, Matthew Hoyle, Ian Parker, IP, Lye, Keith, NK Koh, Tim, David, Sally, Sandra Andacht, Elyce Litts, Trillian, Joan, Mike Harty, Mike Vermeer, John Wocher, Ed, Arno, Giovanni, Joe, Carrie Lambert, Mike John Donoghue and many, many more - who have added their special flavor to the board, and contributed so much to our currently 350,000+ posts. We have had so much fun. Thank you all.

The point is, that this web page and especially the Discussion Board is a joint effort and I think, of unique proportions, in particular when it comes to the quality of the help offered. I believe we most of the time are getting things right, and with a much wider perspective than any individual can, once we are done talking about any single item posted by our members.

Hopefully we will remain online for many more years to come.

If you have an interest in Asian ceramics, be it as a collector or amateur, I would really like you to join in. We will help you find your way around and, in short, you will have started to make friends with other collectors from all over the world. Knowledge will increase the value of your collection, as well as the result of your collecting efforts.

The road to knowledge should be traveled in good company, as we have said from the start.

Jan-Erik Nilsson

This page revisited and updated April 2024