Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Porcelain Ceramic Photo from Bygone Days

There was once a popular folk art amongst the Chinese and I believe in particular amongst the Fujianese (including the Foochows)known as "burning" photo images onto porcelain. In the west this is known as porcelain ceramic photography. It has remained an important and significant artistic medium amongst western artists. Although the Chinese led in this art during the Ching Dynasty the style somehow has gone out during the Communist rule in China.

According to some oral sources this art of Porcelain Cermaic Photography was perfected by artists in Jiangxi where Chen- te -chen (Jintezhen) is situated. Chen - te- chen is the greatest supplier of ceramic or porcelain in the world. However due to lack of sources I cannot elaborate further on this exquisite art except to describe just one sample that I have. According to a cousin who came to visit during Chinese New Year there are other older families in Sibu who have images of their forefathers in porcelain ceramic.

Apart from family portraits this art also allows many filial sons and daughters to put porcelain memorial photos on the tombstones of their forebears. A check on the Sibu Foochow cemeteries you can find lots of examples. This coming Ching Ming would give you such an opportunity.

Most of my relatives belonging to my great grandfather's generation and my grandfather's generation had their portraits embedded on porcelain. While my great grandfather and grandfather had theirs done in Jiangxi China many of my father's generation did theirs in Sibu through Mr. Tang Ing Kee whose business was at 32 Blacksmith Road. The name of this shop is Shanghai Porcelain Studio.

This is a porcelain photo of my great grandfather Tiong King Kee who was quite a good traditional barefoot doctor.

My great grandfather was a herbalist for common ailments and could tell one's illness from feeling the pulses. His was much admired and at his deathbed three doctors were at his bed side (Dr. Chiu Nai Ding with Dr. Su Chiew and Dr. Yao Siew King) We were often told that he was great friends with these doctors and had written a book even. But it was never published and somehow it must have disappeared . It is such a pity.

My family has kept this porcelain photo of his since my parents got married . The procelain image was made in China when my great grandfather was 78 years old. The photo has never faded and looks just like new today. It has been about 60 years.

His shining crown. Someone once remarked that many of our ancestors had receding hairline because they kept their Manchu style pigtails for a long time. When tying up their long hair they pulled their hair too much and hence they lost much of their hair in the forehead!!

I love his eyes and his special glasses. Look at the beautiful wrinkles and creases. They make his face so gentle and kind.

You can see the strands of facial hair very clearly in the photo above and below. My great grandfather loved his white flowing beard and it was his signature feature. It made him such a grand person.

It is a pity that this art is going out of fashion in Sibu. But I am hoping that with the Internet many can find sources to make their own porcelain ceramic photos if they are interested. The Mexicans love this and still have their portraits done for their loved ones.

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