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Subject:Best resources to learn about Asian Art
Posted By: Michiko Mon, Sep 18, 2017 IP:

Up until now, I have been interested in British pottery but I met a lovely gentleman on Saturday at an antiques fayre who had the most exquisite selection of Asian (mainly Chinese) antiques between 100-1000(!) years old. He was kind enough to spend an hour sharing his knowledge with me and I am absolutely hooked. I usually can learn a lot from youtube and specific books but, as this subject is so broad, I don't really know where to start. Can anyone recommend any resources? What interested me the most was his 500-1000 year old metal artefacts with enamel inlays and his little copper buddha statues but I also loved the pottery. I couldn't find many youtube videos and the few books on amazon are expensive with hardly any reviews so I'm not sure which are good.

Essentially (sorry for the long post) I'm trying to ask the experts... what have been the best resources to help you learn?

Thanks :)

Subject:Re: Best resources to learn about Asian Art
Posted By: JLim Sun, Sep 24, 2017

Dear Michiko

Welcome to the world of Asian antiques. It is definitely an intriguing area but is hampered by TWO factors above all; one, the faking industry in Asia is a billion dollar industry; and two, there is a fearful amount of ignorance out there, even among people who are dealing in the stuff.

Therefore, I cannot emphasise enough; learn up BEFORE splurging on alleged Asian antiques, no matter how convincing the old dude at the stall is. It is no trial to learn up on this stuff; it is fascinating and culturally rich. Start buying low cost but definitely genuine objects. Examine the objects very closely and compare to what you are reading.

You are almost bound to make mistakes at the start; just keep the mistakes cheap and enjoyable!

As for resources, I recently posted the following list of useful books on another thread. The books ONLY deal with Chinese porcelain, not the bronze artefacts you like, but anyway, here it is. If you have to start somewhere, get the HOBSON book cheap off Ebay, and get ALLEN's book too. Then branch out.

Others, of course, can recommend books on Meiji bronzes, bronze Buddhas, champlevé, etc.

* * * * *

Dear Bokaba

I hold with the view of Anthony Allen that the older books are still surprisingly good sources. They tend to concentrate on export porcelains, for one thing, while modern books tend to focus on Imperials. They are also closer in history to the Qing dynasty (in Bushells case the Qing Dynasty was still operating), so there are really useful anecdotes about porcelain making and buying back in the day.


Stephen W Bushell "Oriental Ceramic Art" - from 1896 - I was lucky enough to find a copy in an antiques store. Still surprisingly useful, with great anecdotes about how to buy porcelain in the late Qing era, and with many full colour plates. This in an era when "colour plates" meant some dude in a European museum squinting at a vase for hours and trying to paint it in watercolours!

Hobson "Chinese Pottery And Porcelain" from the 1930s - available cheap on Ebay. Still EXTREMELY useful and covers export ware heavily.

Soame Jenyns "Later Chinese Porcelain" also from the 1930s I think. Covers export ware nicely!


Nigel Wood "Chinese Glazes" from the 1980s - an utterly remarkable book. It is really useful to be able to learn how all these glazes were originally made - in a pinch one can remember the difference between Copper Red, Iron Red and Rouge De Fer, for example. And what is the true difference between Celadon and Apple Green?

Anthony J Allen "Introduction To Later Chinese Porcelain" - an absolute bible. Charmingly written, useful to people in the rough and tumble of actual porcelain collecting rather than the quiet of the museum. The original hardback (which I got at an exorbitant price) has stunning, stunning photographs that are really useful for actual collectors. Allen's later books are fine, but this one is the masterpiece.

"The Wanli Shipwreck And Its Ceramic Cargo" available from Sjen Sjostrand's website - check it out for a really thorough look at Transitional Era export porcelain circa 1625 - stunning photos.

Gerald Davison's book on Chinese marks - a thorough catalogue of Chinese porcelain marks - a true godsend.

I would recommend all the above as a good start to a Chinese porcelain collector's reference library. Then start collecting Sotheby's catalogues.



Subject:Re: Best resources to learn about Asian Art
Posted By: rat Sun, Sep 24, 2017

Hi Michiko,
You are right, it is a very broad field, so there's no single source of information that is comprehensive. There are several overviews of ceramics and porcelain; as you point out, some have gotten pretty expensive (the He Li book based on the Asian Art Museum San Francisco is one of them). Another that is freely available online is based on the Metropolitan Museum's collection (

Since they aren't my primary interest, I can't think of any survey works on bronze figurines (many of which will be Buddhist) or cloisonne (though if you search this website for posts by a fellow named "beadiste" you will find a lot of information on particularly 20th century cloisonne). Most books in those two fields are oriented towards specialists.

A better bet is to look for old auction catalogs from Sothebys and Christies (starting in the mid-1980s when there were photos for virtually every lot). Look on ebay for those titled something like "Chinese ceramics and Works of Art". They are an inexpensive way to get an overview of well-known types of objects and when they were in vogue. For more targeted searches, Christies maintains a searchable online database of sold lots. Here are the results when one searches for "Chinese cloisonne", for example: | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |