Publishing Books and Collecting Ancient Artwork
Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have finished my two monumental papers on "Ali of the Malay Archipelago" and the "History of the Sarawak Valley from early times to 1840." I am awaiting word from the publisher.
It will be two months now. I believe only 2-3 people will ever read the finished product, but it was fun to research, tromp through kampungs and to write them. The Sarawak Museum people are interested in the works but can't do anything until after the New Year.
I have been trying to classify our ceramic collection. When we travelled, and we travelled a lot over the past six years, we purchased items that we thought were valuable. We didn't have a clue what it was, but I would pick something out and Suriani (my wife) would do the bargaining. There is a price for white people and then the native price. Suriani negotiated the native price.
I started with the blue and whites. These are pieces that most of us have seen with a blue design on a white surface. At first they were bewildering but I managed to categorize them in three distinct flavors: Yuan, Ming and Qing. The Yuan are light blue with large animals, The Ming have darker blue with more intricate design, while the Qing have dragons. If you line each one up side-by-side you can tell the difference.
Each period is divided into the emperors that ruled China, and believe me, there sure were a lot of them. I tried to classify the works to the emperor of each period, but it got so confusing. Terms like "blue dot and orange peel texture," "dull and contrived brush strokes," "elegant solid form," " translucent and clear glazes” and "refreshing floral and tree motifs" are just some of the descriptions I gleaned from books. They just didn't make any sense to me. I mean, how would I know what a refreshing floral motif was? Then there were descriptions of the bubbles in the glaze which needed a microscope.
The next grouping was the Islamic ware. They were also blue and white but have Moslem designs on them. They were easy because I live with an Islamic lady and were able to pick out those designs rather quickly.
The brown ones looked like ones that your children brought/bring home from camp or school while they were in the third or fourth grade. I was told they were the oldest, somewhere below the 5th century A.D., or the children were playing around a kiln much later. Your guess is as good as mine.
The last grouping I will call gay ware. These are metal, wood and ceramic pieces that show the genitalia. When the Christians and the Islamic people came through, they chopped off the genitalia or destroyed the art. I have bought whatever is left and I guess we now have 10 or 15 objects. The local dealers usually hide these so one must really search for them and they really let them go cheaply.
I don't know how much any of this stuff is worth. We have looked at Sotheby’s and Christie’s as well as E-Bay. None of the prices seem to match what we have. We will keep them for 10 years and the probably ship it all up to Hong Kong for an auction.
...Life is good. . . . .