THE EARLY CERAMIC WARES OF CHINA.*
IT is with pleasure and admiration that we record the publication of this fascinating book. It deals with subjects of great beauty and interest, and, we are not ashamed to add, curiosity, for curiosity is not only essential to human progress, but is one of the illuminants of existence. Rightly, therefore, have examples of the minor works of art received the name of " curios." But the porcelain and other early ceramic wares of China, chronicled in this notable work by Mr. Hetherington, introduced to us by Mr. Hobson, of the appropriate department of the British Museum, and displayed by the artists in reproduction, who have embellished its pages with a hundred illustrations, twelve of them being admirable examples of colour printing, are by no means only curios. The figures and vases are often exquisitely beautiful in form, colour and substance. At the same time they often come to us fraught with strange and sometimes deeply mysterious histories.
Artemus Ward said after his visit to the British Museum that he could weep like a child over a Roman or Greek vase with a date on it, but that a piece of pottery labelled " Period Un- certain " left him cold. Many of these plates belong to the category " Period Uncertain," but they will not freeze the sympathies of the reader. Rather they will inflame him with the noble desire to join the chase, and go hunting with the gay throng of archaeologists and collectors as keen on their game as the most devoted riders to hounds.
Many of these exquisite porcelains, either dug up from old tombs or redeemed from forgotten caches of treasure, have in them a diAtinctly sporting element. The Chinaman of to-day is, not a very " horsy " person, but the Chinamen in the Dim Ages, or even such comparatively recent times for China as our Middle Ages, were astonishingly • The Early Ceramic Wares of China. By A. L Hetherington. With an introduction by R. L.. Hobson, Keeper of the Department of Ceramics and Ettmosnanhy, British Museum. London : Bern Brothers. [83s. net.] clever in their reproductions of the horse. By this we do not mean that, like the producers of the sporting prints of the 'fifties or our present photographers, they give us pieces
of pure realism, but rather that when they modelled the horse they represented his true spirit. Even their most archaic examples are full of fire and energy and remind us of the horse in the Book of Job. As he writes the present reviewer
is looking at a little plate entitled " Caparisoned horse pawing the ground, hollow body, made of buff pottery, yellow glaze, 15t ins. high. T'ang Dynasty. In the Benson Collection." The
creature is admirable in design. He is of excellent pattern and yet on the side of nature he is own brother of the horse of the Bible. The early Chinese horse, indeed, is generally a creature of this metal :—
" He pawoth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength : he goeth on to meet the armed men."
Poet and potter were inspired by a similar passion and have achieved a similar glory.
In thanking the producers of the book we must not, however, forget to thank also the public-spirited Virtuosi who have helped the compiler by allowing him the free use of their collections.
First in amplitude of resources comes Mr. Eumorfopoulos, the distinguished Greek who has made his Surrey villa famous wherever men in Europe, America or Asia love and understand the arts of China. The Benson Collection is largely relied upon, and also, of course, the British and the Victoria and Albert Museums.
Speaking of these men and what they have done for the world in preserving the physically minor artistic glories of the past, veritable stars in the milky way in the Heaven of the Arts, one may note that many of these examples of pottery have been preserved owing to the fact that the Chinese are born collectors, as, indeed, are the learned of all civilized communities.
The first sign that Rome was becoming truly civilized, as we see from Cicero's letters, was when Consuls, Tribunes, Senators. Praetors and Knights began to collect Greek and Etruscan vases, small bronzes, and glass and porcelain bowls.
But mere eulogy of such a book as this grows tiresome.
Therefore, we shall be content to refer readers who care for the Arts to the volume itself. We must give ourselves, how- ever, the pleasure of quoting a delightful story which is given by the editor of the book in his fourth chapter, that on " Chinese Grave Customs." What is the exact origin of the story of the Widow with the Fan who can say ? It has, at any rate, a curious affinity to that of the Ephesian widow, which, first set down by Petronius in his appalling book, fascinated the Middle Ages and commanded the attention of so pure-hearted an ecclesiastic as our own Jeremy Taylor. Here is the Chinese story. We say without hesitation that it beats the Ephesian widow hollow.
" Discussion of graves and burial-grounds calls to mind a Chinese story, for the inclusion of which I make no excuse.
A Chinese philosopher was passing through a burial-ground when he saw a young and prepossessing lady, dressed in white (the Chinese mourning colour), sitting beside a newly made grave which she was fanning vigorously with a fan.
He went up to her and said, Madam, you interest me very much ; will you tell me why you are fanning the grave ? ' The lady scowled at him and made no reply, whereupon he repeated his question, saying, ' I ask out of no idle curiosity, for I am a philosopher and student of human nature, and your action interests me immensely.' The lady again scowled at him and said nothing ; so he walked on. As he was passing a bamboo grove hard by, a Chinese servant came out of it and plucked him by the sleeve, saying, I saw you speaking to my mistress just now and I feel sure you were asking her why she was fanning that newly made grave. The reason is this : my mistress and my master, who died a fortnight ago, were passionately devoted to each other. When my master was on his death-bed, my mistress wept and said, " If you die, I swear I will go into a nunnery." My master replied, Swear not that." My mistress then said, " Well, if I do not go into a nunnery, I swear I will never marry again." My master replied, " Swear not that, but if you must swear, swear that you will not marry again until the sods on my grave are dry.' . "
We commend Mr. Hetherington for throwing silly conventions to the wind and quoting this most attractive story, though, as he confesses, it has nothing whatever to do with ceramics. A story as good as this is never out of place.
The frontispiece, showing a little figure in enchanting green riding boots astride of a magnificent Chinese camel with two humps, now in the possession of Mr. Eumorfopoulos, is worthy to be the frontispiece of any book on any , art. The browns and greens do not betray the colour-printer, as do too many of
the elements in which he works. Our last word on this delightful book shall be a quotation from Lao Tzii—" He who knows does not spettk, he who speaks does not know." Rightly does Mr. Hetherington call it " a terrifying dictum." It is for half the world the " uncreating word." It would close every Parliament, stop the issue of every newspaper, devastate the lecture-rooms in the world's universities. At any rate, it reduces the present writer to silence, ardent lover as he is of the