Blue and White Guan ( Which Dynasty ? )

Started by Lee Seng Kong, May 13, 2017, 13:31:10

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Lee Seng Kong

Hi Folks,

Attached are a few photos of a GUAN in my possession.

Part of the neck is broken, the original part missing and poorly repaired.

Compared to photos of similar  Guans from the Yuan dynasty, the neck of this piece appears slightly longer.

Dimension:- H 30.0 x Girth dia. 30.0 x Lip Dia. 15.0 x Base Dia. 20 (cm)

I have to reconfirm these measurement more accurately....but it is there-about.

Very heavy.

Can anyone confirm it is early Ming as adviced by my other collector friends....Or , dispute that it is Ming  and advice accordingly.

If one takes a careful look at the foot rim in the photo of the base, there are two distinct short indentations at the top and bottom side which "line-up", this give me the impression that the Guan was "strung-up" instead of "sitting down"  on stilts in the peculiar 
(BTW Peter/Stan......I am learning to look more carefully at base of an item from the other lessons learnt from this forum)

Aside, can anyone please advice me how to contact professional repairers as there are none where I am located.

Thank-you All.


I will not be able to tell much from these pictures, but this item poses questions in several ways.
While the glaze color and underglaze blue color do all exist, independently, late Ming items would have likely a slightly brighter blue color. The glaze is somewhat grayish, more than would be expected. But what makes me really suspicious is the bottom. I am yet to see an unglazed bottom of this type and color from any dynasty (Song to Qing), among the items that I have had the opportunity to handle or see. It is simply too smooth and uniform in color for any unglazed bottom. Even unglazed bottoms from the Yongzheng era all have a so-called sand bottom. And, why are there so many small holes in it? If a clay has so many holes, these would be also visible in the glaze in some places. Holes could theoretically develop when the clay contains combustible or evaporating substances, which evaporate during firing in the kiln. But this would likely also cause pin holes or tiny brown holes in the glaze, as it flows into the recesses. Then again, the foot rim would hardly look that way, if from the Ming or Qing dynasty. With heavier items there might be no rim at all, that is  a flat, unglazed (sand) bottom.
I would recommend to research typical bottom types of the late Ming and Qing dynasties.

Lee Seng Kong

Hi Peter,
I have actually checked before from photos of similar items on the internet, and description of unglazed base with small holes and cracks  etc etc from auction houses and from journals which indicate that  these type of bases do exist during the mid-Ming period....and would the darker blue point to that period ?
But I am in no position to determine if what I have gathered thus far is correct or wrong.

I do have items with sand grits fused to the base or spur marks of stilts.......that is why I find it very peculiar that none of these exist on this Guan base, apart from the 2 half-round indentation, possibly made by metal wires at the rim of the base .....opposite to one another me the impression that this item was somehow strung up during firing.....on close inspection, it appears that wire made flat indentation on the bottom of base rim and slide up the side of the base rim.....which would indicate that the wire was at an angle to the base strung up. Please review the close-up photo to get a better picture.

Also, compared to other Guans, the taller neck leaves a question mark too.

Appreciate if anyone can contribute to unravel these puzzles.



I'm afraid we have opposing viewpoints. You assume that this is a genuine antique and want to prove it. I on the other hand assume that it probably is 20th century, so not an antique.
The glaze and color is similar to many 20th century items, but I base my assumption almost solely on the base, because that is usually the most important criteria when evaluating authenticity. A wrong base is often more decisive than any other criteria. I explain below.

First, that with being strung up by wire is impossible. Porcelain was fired with temperatures of over 1100 degree Celsius, up to 1450 degrees. A metal wire would be likely melting at that temperature. So this is no go...
Kiln sand or grit adhering to the bottom does not necessarily mean it is what the Chinese call  a 'sand bottom'.
A sand bottom means actually just that it is sandy to the touch, not smooth, but it is just an unglazed bottom without any sand or grit adhering. You actually do not normally see antique Chinese porcelain with such a smooth bottom/foot rim surface as yours. It possibly means it was not fired in a coal or wood kiln. Not sure about that, though.

If you search on the internet you will find pictures of the interior of Chinese kilns. Items were always placed either on kiln grit (some earlier kilns), the ground, or they were placed in firing containers. Some were fired standing on firing rings or stilt rings, etc.; but the former would leave circular traces, the later would leave usually unglazed support points about the size of sesame seeds. However, firing on stilt supports was not commonly done with the support placed underneath unglazed areas or the foot rim, in China (unlike for example some Korean porcelain).
Normally an unfired base does not look like this item, and unfired bottoms do not have this color. This includes those of the Yuan dynasty, I'm afraid.

Lee Seng Kong

Hi Peter,

Thank you for taking the time  to elaborate further.
I am definitely not an expert on Chinese antiques, and as a new participant in this forum, I find it very enlightening to have a chance to follow all the comments/appraisals on the various items submitted for discussion by the different participants on this platform

Before participating in this forum, I was only able to try to appraise ( I would not even use the word APPRAISE.....more correctly....short  discourse) an item with  my local collectors friends....and none of them are experts...that's for sure......and I would not be wrong to say that most of us have collected so called "fake antiques" along the way.

Most of my collector friends are retirees....including when we started collecting antiques many years ago, we really had scant knowledge on how to appraise an item......not like now....when we refer to photos....get advice/appraisal on-line etc etc....

On the current subject, I have raise 2 puzzles namely:-
1) indentation on the base rim
2) longer neck compared to other Guans  seen online ......this comparison on  longer neck itself, has prompted me to raised the question...... why the it a genuine piece and of that period, or is it a genuine later copy with age , or is it a total modern fake etc etc.

As you well know, China established trading route with South East Asia, since the Tang Dynasty....there are no doubts that genuine blue and white porcelain/other pottery/antiques from China, can be found in our  it that they are mostly common wares, with some official I hope you can bear with me when I try to find out more on this item but posing some questions and view-points.

I wonder what materials are the stilt supports/stilt rings made of since metal support would melt.

In any case, I appreciate your kind advice.


>I wonder what materials are the stilt supports

Some ceramic materials. There may have been different clay types used, depending on area and kiln. Support rings of this type would not often be used, probably, because in the process of removing them from the items the support tips likely would break.
At the best they would likely have been made using similar clay as that used for bricks.

Lee Seng Kong

Thanks use the similar ceramic material for stilts, should be common sense to me...but did not even think of this simple answer !! curious mind  was so wrapped up around the shape and alignment of the indentation at the base.....having learnt from this forum that the base would be a clearer/better  indicator of the authenticity that is what drove me to try to find some answers.

Frankly, I do not have any  clue as to how to identify an item by looking at the base.....nor do I  know if any makings on an item is genuine or not......even after checking on line and down-loading various photos of marks for comparison...or having read the various subjects related to markings on this forum.......your detailed description on how to read the base taught me alot.

With my limited knowledge, frankly ( and maybe foolishly) I collected "antiques"based on my these judgments:-
i) looks old
ii) have seen photos of it in books/museum
iii) possibility of the item appearing in the my region through trading routes with China
iv) no local kilns produce such items , before or now.
v) seen very few or only one-off piece in my region.
vi) some collected from needy people from their remote homes, and at a such cheap price that cannot justify the trouble to replicate it.
vi) nearby Indonesia do try to replicate new copies, however, they easily identifiable as copies.
vii) some bought based on reliance/trust on the "mumbo jumbo" of antique dealers ....or even collector friends.

I will not be wrong to say...... many collectors have been fooled like me under  item vii)

In any case, best leave the puzzle for now...Thanks again.


I see you have already realized everything necessary to start collecting genuine antiques (points i-vii). Every collector has gone through these stages, even the so-called experts at museums or auction houses, I am sure.
(vi) I know, a couple of these were presented in the old forum. Some had nothing Chinese looking in them, or marks that clearly showed that the writer/painter had no idea of Chinese writing.
(vii) is very unfortunate. Some sell fakes unknowingly, but some sell fakes as a matter of course.
I do not agree to what some Chinese here say about the stages of learning about antiques: First one is cheated, then one cheats oneself, and later one cheats others. I do especially not agree to the third one, which means that if someone becomes knowledgeable he/she sells fakes to others. That shouldn't be that way.
But many of us actually passed through stages one and two. Afterwards the "want to believe" is reduced and the collector becomes more careful.

My recommendation is - do not start with Ming porcelain, unless it is export porcelain. Real non-export Ming porcelain of high quality is rare and extremely expensive. Generally said, quality was better in the Qing dynasty. Export porcelain was better in quality than the average domestic porcelain. Bowls and plates are usually lower in price than decorative or 'standing' pieces' (vases, jars, etc.). Collect some not too expensive items as samples. Learn about real and fake age signs, etc.
I assume that 99% of all items offered in the Far East are fakes. So we have to be able to recognize the last 1%. It is all caused by the large scale Chinese faking industry.
The percentage may different in your place. I think you should have better chances for access to genuine antiques than many others here. Try looking at and similar sites to start with. There must be some museums showing their items too.

Lee Seng Kong

Thanks Peter,

You are right....there are a few shipwrecks discovered and salvaged  around the South East Asia region....from Tang to Qing
On the subject of shipwreks........
I live  in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo and I have a friend who is a close associate of Stan Sjostrand who operated the company  Nanhai Marine Archaeology S/B.
This company conducted the salvaging of the Tanjung Simpang Ship-Wreck, located off the town Kudat at  the northern tip of Borneo Island...which is about 200 km from where I live.
This wreck is dated to the Song Period.
Before the salvaging begun in April 2003, I managed to  acquired some intact pieces of  Celadon kendis, some plates,  bowls and tea cups ...from local fishermen who had recovered  some of the exposed  intact items ....leaving lots for broken shards and some good intact items which were buried deeper in the sand.....later to be salvaged by Nanhai.
So, in this instance, I had the chance to examine, feel,and acquire some  Song antiques and attest personally that they are genuine.

BTW,  when did the "faking industry" on a large scale start in China.



...who operated the company  Nanhai Ma...

Is he not operating anymore?

Copying of antiques has always been done in China, but the current situation started perhaps about twenty years ago. When they detected that there was interest abroad and in China itself and started copying or faking existing antiques. Before that there was little interest in doing that on a large scale, it seems.

Lee Seng Kong

.who operated the company  Nanhai Ma...

Is he not operating anymore?

For this I have to check with my friend since the salvage I mentioned was in 2003. I just called my friend to check....but he is overseas......will let know whether  Stan  is alive and kicking after my friend rettur.

Nanhai salvaging operations is not based in Kota Kinabalu.......although after having salvage the wreck, some of the recovered items were sold in a shop at the KK Waterfront with Stans' authenticity certificates.

Thats all I got for now


I know that he is based in peninsular Malaysia, and that they seem to have been operating about three decades. Just because I heard nothing and you mentioned it as if he stopped working. If you are in Sabah, then you are a bit away from the museums, perhaps.

Lee Seng Kong

I don't recall that I  mentioned Nanhai has stopped operating.
To your question......"Is he not operating anymore?"
I have to check.

To your enquiry:-"If you are in Sabah, then you are a bit away from the museums, perhaps"

These are the following more prominent museums.
i) Kota Kinabalu, Capital of the State of Sabah, East Malaysia:- State Museum
ii)Kuching, Capital of the State of Sarawak, East Malaysia:- State Museum
iii)Kuala Lumpur in the state of Selongor, Capital of Malaysia:- National Museum
iv) Penang, on the Island of Penang, West Malaysia:_ State Museum,
v) Melaka, State of Melaka, West Malaysia:- State Museum.
    Small note:- Melaka is prominent in history as a trading port/transit port with very strong Trading tie with China, India, Indonesia, Arabia, Europe.
Previously, Melaka is well known as the town to find antiques...not now though after so many years.

Apart from these more prominent museums, there are 13 states that make up Malaysia, and each has its own State  Museum.

Within the states, there are some smaller museum located in smaller town which exhibits those antiques discovered locally, or contributed by the locals or bought by the Government from the locals who inherited them.

All these museums are government controlled and the more interesting and  rare items found anywhere in Malaysia, are transferred to the State  Museums or National Museums to be exhibited.

Our museum exhibits items from Tang to Qing periods.

There are also museums in Phillipines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam that I have visited.

In my construction business, I have had the chance to travel quite far and wide, particularly in South East Asia ,Middle East and Europe....but my business do not take me  Far East....only been there for time/too selfish to engage in  the "self-interest" of antiques when one travels with family or with friends.

My interest in antiques started when I was a student in United Kingdom (70's) visiting Flea markets....started collecting trinkets....especially  silver and gold ...since they are quite easily identifiable with their hall-marks....and those days .....Chinese antiques were also sold in Flea Markets apart from auction houses.....and it was not surprising because of etc etc.

In short, I classify myself as a "hobbyist" in antiques and those earlier days, I bought  reference books to use as a guide.....but never attempted to learn the intricacies of antique to become an expert as I am not in the antique business nor do I have the time.

Now that I am fully retired, I have the time to access, amongst the items I have collected...which is genuine......which is fake.....which are genuine copies with age ..etc etc.

So this is where you and this forum, have contributed to help and for that, I am thankful because it is keeping this senile mind ...abit more active.