The Ewer In The Sea
In 1999, a great quantity of Chang Sha ceramic
bowls and ewers suddenly emerged from nowhere and swarmed many antique
shops in Singapore. The bowls and ewers were painted with abstract floral
scrolls and whirling circles in green, orange or even red colors,
which are lively and remains brilliant despite the age of such wares for
almost one thousand years after production. However, the sandy and porous
surface of the body marks a clear sign of corrosion by the sea water.
We can easily come to the conclusion that a ship wreck could have been
found in the nearby ocean.
Chang Sha is the capital city of Hunan province in China, and the yellow glazed wares shot to fame during the Tang dynasty about 900 over years back. The wares were fired between 1150 to 1200 degree Centigrade. Relatively speaking, this range of temperature is considered low firing, and the ceramic pieces are not totally porcelainized. This explains why most of the pieces discovered from the kiln sites were cracked or broken. The rarity of complete pieces sent the price of Chang Sha wares escalating in recent years.
The large quantity of these sea salvaged Chang Sha bowls and ewers cast doubt and aroused suspicion among the collectors on their authenticity. A rumor was so spread that some unscrupulous antique dealers in China specially commissioned the production of these fakes and sank them deep in the sea for three to five years. When recovered, the natural wear caused by the salt due to the long immersion created a whole lot of ?make believe? treasures. It remained as a puzzle to the Singapore collectors especially when the price for each item was pegged at as low as only one hundred Singapore dollars. A tug of war ensued between the dealers and the collectors as a heated argument took place when a refund was demanded for some pieces which some ?experts? claimed to be fakes.
Subsequently, there was this story that of late, a ninth century sunken ship was discovered in the Indonesia sea in a salvaging expedition conducted by a group of German traders. A huge store of Tang dynasty crockery and utensils which include thousands of Chang Sha bowls, ewers and jars were retrieved from the wreck. Local Indonesian workers were employed to clean wash and pack these treasures for transport to an Europe country for auction. It was said that the workers would hide away some beautiful items and resell to the antiques dealers. In turn, the Chang Sha bowls and ewers were exported to Singapore to a reap of better profit.
It was the time when most Asian countries including Indonesia were under the siege of a financial crisis as a result of a profiteering conspiracy on the currency stock exchange market carried out by the American tycoon, Mr. Soros. The Indonesian currency rate nose dived to an all time low. The collectors in Singapore benefited a lot from the good exchange rate that they purchased the antiques at an unbelievable cheap price.
The collectors who wavered and hesitated in
the buying spree were not to blame as the characteristics of genuine Chang
Sha wares were not clear to them. If we take a close scrutiny, we would
be able to identify the following features:
CHANGSHA ITEMS FROM THE
By: Lim Yah Chiew