Painting a carmine line- Taiwan’s Ye Wang Koji Pottery treasuresReturn
TELDAP e-Newsletter (December, 2011)
Painting a carmine line- Taiwan’s Ye Wang Koji Pottery treasures
Taiwan Digital Archives Expansion Project/CHU, JU-CHUN
Taiwan Fujian Style architecture follows traditional Chinese styles; following the belief that man is an integral part of nature, according to a set sequence and level, it follows the central axis of countless changes. Following the architectural development of decorative art, it was nourished by the fertile land in the south, gradually bringing forth an abundance of diversity. After the skilled craftsmen each brought their skills to Taiwan, they continued to develop their arts; The skilled Taiwanese workers who passed their art on to future generations took their localized knowledge to all of Taiwan's temples, garden mansions and sacrificial ceremonies at temple gatherings. With their tools, colorful paints, clay and glaze they constructed many rich and diverse styles.
Taiwan’s Special Craft: Koji pottery
In the days before television, how did one see opera literature, folklore, human life vicissitudes and other story plots? Besides listening to old people tell stories and reading novels, people during that time only had to go into a temple and look up and they would see a conglomerate of spectacular stories, one after another! On this side is the energetic story of the three brave war generals; and over there is the charming poem "the Gentleman's Four Loves";there are also the auspicious lions and animals and the gods worshippers pray to for protection and prosperity, all displayed using koji pottery,cutting and pasting, colored paintings and engravings by the skilled craftsmen; these pieces of art enriching the visual experience and make daily life more lively.
The technique of koji pottery originates from southern Fujian Province; it can be traced back to the tri-colored low-temperature glazed polymer pottery of the Tang dynasty. For example, jewel-like clarity and exquisiteness are its main features. Appearing to have been influenced by literature, opera, religion, legend, folk customs etc, it is rich and diverse. Koji pottery in Taiwan developed its own name and manufacturing style; it was mainly used as decoration in temples and mansions. Later it developed into specialized handicraft products, which became one of the representatives of Taiwan. Koji pottery is complicated to make, it is requires skills such as molding, glazing and cooking; From choosing the clay, training the clay, and raising the clay to conceptualizing it, forming it, decorating it, and evening out the thickness to cooking it, smelting the glaze, applying the glaze, firing the glaze, and finally installing the piece and making a background. In all, there are over ten steps. If you breakdown the process, one can find valuable knowledge within.
Barbarian Xian Rui, now in Xuejia town's Tzu Chi Temple
Ye Wang: The first Koji potter in Taiwan
Koji pottery has been in Taiwan for approximately 300 years, the majority of the production was overseen by master craftsmen from Tangshan who established the foundation for Taiwan's koji craft. Taiwan’s own earliest recorded koji pottery master was called Ye Wang who was active during the late-middle period of the Qing dynasty. Ye Wang was originally named Ye Lin-zhi, his ancestors were from Pinghe, Zhangzhou, Fujian Province. He was born in Emperor Daoguang's 6th year (1826-1887) in Jiayi County's Minxiong township. His works were commonly signed “Ye Wang”, after he died he was called Master Wang. Ye Wang’s works realistically portrayed humans and expressed an abundant sense of life. When a lucky four-legged beast is depicted , it is powerful and lifelike but also amusing; when portraying the theme of flowers, birds and auspicious animals, he expresses an even finer and more delicate cultural meaning.
Jiali Zhenxing Temple（佳里鎮興宮 ）
Ye Wang’s works are distributed mostly in the Jianan area; currently Xuejia Tzu Chi Temple and Jiali Zhenxing Temple contain perfectly preserved items. In order to prevent theft, Tzu Chi Temple raised funds especially for the purpose of building the Ye Wang Koji Pottery Museum. It is there they have deposited most of the items because the temperature and humidity are kept constant; moreover, guides are there to explain the various different pieces. The effort Tzu Chi Temple puts into preserving King Ye's work has turned the small town of Xuejia in Tainan into a must-see site for those researching koji pottery.
The items in Jiali Zhenxing Temple are works completed by Ye Wang in 1868 and are considered later items. There have been two cases of theft there, but Zhenxing Temple remains the temple with the most Ye Wang works. When facing Zhenxing Temple you can see the entrance of the gallery on the side of the wall; both sides have a "Hanfan lifting a corner of a house" statue. They appear dark and have curled hair as they crouch and exert all their energy to lift the corners of the temple. Their work looks exhausting and they have lonely and desolate looks upon their faces. These two Hanfan statues are the largest works of Ye Wang, and are different from the traditional half naked Hanfans that were generally made, revealing a tradition of strong, burly men. Ye Wang instead carved made fine apparel for his statues with an abundance of colors. You can see the deep love Ye Wang had for these two "dedicated" Hanfan: they are very moving works. Also, on either side of Sanchuan are the few auspicious-themed works that Ye Wang left us; they are full of elegance and can be regarded as the gems of Zhenxing Temple.
Hanfan statues lifting the corners at Zhenxing Temple in Jiali
Ye Wang’s works have many themes, reflecting the circumstances and values of his contemporary society. From Ye Wang’s works, we can sense he was very diligent at observing human behavior. The story behind "Fat Man, Skinny Man" as tradition has it, is that they were two of Ye Wang’s good friends that he met while at Tzu Chi Temple. Ye Wang had frequent dealings with them for a long time, which left a deep impression upon him and led him to mold the images of these two friends and place them on the top of the roof. Different from the duplicates of ordinary craftsmen, Ye Wang imitated his subject matter through what he saw, and expressed the different manifestations he found in life, conveying the passion and sincerity with which he regarded the human affairs. He carved with great accuracy, he molded gently and beautifully, he depicted true feelings, his line markings were graceful, his shapes were simple and vigorous, and his style was elegant and refined.
The picture shows “Fat Man, Skinny Man.”
The Digitization of koji pottery, a New 3D Appearance.
In order to make the glaze bright and beautiful, firing koji pottery at low-temperature is one of the key methods used. However, the low-temperature semi-finished pottery is weak and frail and the protection of it is of great concern. Its long exposure outside of the building has caused rapid fading of color, not to mention the traditional building frequently underwent repairs. Many precious items have already turned into ashes, only to be commemorated through their images but this is only the case for a small number of items. On another note, the master-disciple system for koji pottery has already ceased to exist and items are gradually leaving buildings and becoming independent works of art. Therefore, it is imperative that we protect the koji items that remain on buildings. Currently, a multipurpose glass cover is often used for protection, but it affects the view for those who come to enjoy the works and is an even bigger obstacle for researchers. If we can preserve these works through digital images, we can overcome these types of problems.
National Yunlin University of Science and Technology's cultural assets department, beginning in 2005, conducted observations on Ye Wang’s works. They discovered weathering, and that the colored glaze had worn severely over the years, such as rouge, emerald green, royal yellow, black tea, cobalt blue, ink black and transparent etc. and is deteriorating as time passes, the appearance changing every year. If they aren’t recorded quickly, then not only will we have to spend a lot of effort to retrace them in the future, but also once they are badly weathered they will be lost forever.
Feeling the urgency, program director Zeng Yong-kuan led his team to research the most appropriate way to preserve the environment as well as to quickly complete the digitization and archiving work of Ye Wang’s work through "Taiwan Traditional Art Treasures - Ye Wang’s 3D Digital Koji Pottery Archive." This project includes collecting information about these museum pieces, 3D film imaging, virtual guides, and website creation etc. Because it involves image processing, Zeng Yong-kuan has extremely strict requirements for the calibration process.
Currently, a multipurpose glass cover is often used for the protection of koji pottery, however it affects the view of those who want to enjoy the works and it is an even bigger obstacle for researchers. If we can preserve these works through digital images, we can overcome these types of problems.
Passing on Precious Skills
Ye Wang’s Pottery is considered a "national treasure" with regards to historic value. By complete digital archiving of Ye Wang’s koji craft techniques, aesthetic forms, and cultural implications etc., we can make up-close appreciation and research the foundation for disseminating Taiwan's culture. We can also use imaging to present natural changes through time, which is an important foundation for restoration.
Ye Wang’s work will continue to inspire future generations as it reflects the traditions and innovation of Taiwan's crafts. Although there is not much that has been preserved, we can still see the perseverance and innovation in each item, which reflects how a creator continues to perfect what is already outstanding; we can see the spirit of seeking the new and seeking change. In contrast, our society today is seeing continual advances in science and technology; the development of art can't always keep up. Therefore, we must get to the root of the matter and learn more about the essence of this traditional skill to help pass on the art of koji pottery and to encourage innovation.
Publisher：Fan-Sen Wang, Vice President of Academia Sinica Editor-in-Chief：Zong-Kun Li Publishing Department：Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program, TELDAP Executive Editor：Sub-project: Digital Information - the New and Creative Way of Communicating Mailing Address：The Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
No.130, Sec. 2, Academia Rd., Nangang District, Taipei City 115, Taiwan TEL： (02) 27829555 ext:310 or 183 FAX： (02) 2786-8834 E-mail：firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue：TELDAP e-Newsletter (December, 2011) Publish Date：12/15 /2011 First Issue：02/15 /2007（Published on 15th every 2 months）
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