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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Wu

Hong Kong Heritage Museum - T. T. Tsui Galleries and Cantonese Opera!

Happy 2018! The last two months have been fairly busy with work - hence the gap between posts. I've been fortunate enough to pick up a few more appraisal assignments and I just completed my next

market trends report for Orientations Magazine in Hong Kong. The latter will be published in their March New York Asia Week edition.

For this forthcoming article, in addition to strong prices in the Chinese Art market for classical furniture, Imperial porcelain and jade carvings, I tried to focus a little bit more on 'the idea' of single-owner collections and why they hold so much value, desirability and mystique with collectors. This past auction season saw the sale of the Le Cong Tang 樂從堂 Collection in Hong Kong, which saw record-breaking sales for Song Ceramics and Ming Dynasty porcelain (split between Sotheby's and Christie's).

The top highlights were featured on numerous news feeds, and include a Rare Ru Guanyao Brush Washer from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) that sold for HK $294,287,500 (approximately US $37.65 million) and a Large Wucai Fish Jar and Cover from the Jiajing Period (1522-1566) of the Ming Dynasty that sold for HK $213,850,000 (approximately US $27.35 million). These are absolutely crazy prices!

When my article is published, I'll post a note on my Instagram feed @anthonywuart as well as a future website blog.

For the holidays I spent two weeks in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was mostly family gatherings, but in Hong Kong I was still able to visit some of the new museum exhibitions including:

'Phoenix Reborn: Chu Jades Excavated from Hubei' at the Art Museum at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

'Reunions: A Collector's Journey' at the Liangyi Museum.

Taiwan was fantastic too! And if you haven't visited, the food is great if you enjoy noodles, dumplings and sushi. I only stayed 2.5 days there and it included a day trip to Chiayi to see the new Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum, and a half-day at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The Chinese porcelain collection in these Taiwanese museums are legendary, so I'll save my highlights for a future blog.

Anyways, back to Hong Kong. I thought I have been to every single major museum in the city - especially now that the main Hong Kong Art Museum is under renovations until 2019, I have been visiting a lot of the smaller ones. Nonetheless I'm really happy that I finally made the long trip via public transportation to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin!

Opened in 2000, the museum celebrates the history of Hong Kong culture with six permanent exhibitions ranging from the Jin Long Gallery (he was THE renowned Hong Kong martial arts fiction writer), the Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall, the Chao Shao'an Gallery (one of the masters of the Southern School of Chinese painting), and the T. T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art.

The T. T. Tsui Gallery was extremely impressive and contained a wide selection of Chinese Art from the Neolithic Age to the end of the Qing Dynasty. They were all donated by the gallery's namesake, Tsui Tsin-Tong 徐展堂 (1941-1910), the Hong Kong businessman, art collector and philanthropist.

Some of the highlights from the T. T. Tsui Gallery include:

A Large Wooden Figure of Guanyin, Late Song to Jin Dynasty (12th/13th Century)

This large figure of the Bodhisattva of Compassion greats visitors entering the T. T. Tsui Galleries. He is seated gracefully in the position of 'royal ease' and has remnants of polychrome pigments throughout.

A Collection of Earthenware Tomb Guardians, Tang Dynasty (618-907)

These heavily armoured guardians, also known as lokapalas, have fierce expression and dynamic poses to protect the tombs of nobles from evil spirits. Their origins derive from Hinduism and Buddhism.

A 'Money Tree' with Earthenware Stand, Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD)

Another tomb artifact, the bronze branches contain round Chinese coins. The finial is a phoenix and the ceramic base contains auspicious animals - all to bestow the deceased a wealthy and fruitful existence in the afterlife.

A Gilt Ormolu and Mounted Musical and Automaton Clock, London, Circa 1785

Despite being manufactured by Paul Rimbault in London, this magnificent clock was made for the Qianlong Court (1736-1795). At every hour, one of four melodies will play. The corner glass tubes coming out of the mythical fish rotate to emulate falling water, and different scenes of moving automatic figures take place on the upper tiers, including the three visible European musicians. It was once owned by Soong Mei-Ling 宋美齡 aka Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (1897-2003), who spent the last years of her life in New York City.

A Massive Blue and White 'Buddhist Lion' Water Container, Jiajing Mark and Period (1522-1566)

I initially thought this item was a large planter or goldfish jar, but after a closer look it would have been

a water container used to extinguish fires . Nobody would have been able to lift this large thing - instead workers would use smaller buckets to scoop out the water. It has a great exterior design of large Fu-Lions playing with brocade balls.

Here's a nice view of the display containing all the blue and white porcelain from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). All Yuan ceramics containing animals, fish and mythical beasts are considered extremely rare. The more typical ones feature florals and scrolling vine.

Blue and White 'Mandarin Duck' Faceted Vase from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

My favourite item in the Yuan Dynasty case is this elegant bottle base. Not only does it have an unusual faceted shape, but it also contains a rare depiction of mandarin ducks in a lotus pond.

A Pair of Famille Rose Shallow Bowls, Yongzheng Mark and Period (1723-1735)

Another of my favourite items from this gallery is a pair of famille rose dishes with 'boneless' design of a kingfisher and butterflies. The 'boneless' design refers to the fact that the typical outlines are concealed. The soft palette is very typical of enamel designs on Yongzheng porcelain.

In addition to the T. T. Tsui Gallery, I spent a lot of time wandering through the Hong Kong Opera Heritage Hall on the first floor. They feature a life size model of the Opera Stage at Zumiao of Foshan 佛山祖廟戲台. The original was built in 1658, and the area of Foshan was where Cantonese opera started, expanding to all of Southern China.

Fully dressed models of a Cantonese opera in action!

Portable chests and tin boxes used to store the opera stars' attire. Cantonese opera troupes were nomadic and would have traveled from town to town via river boats. Hence everything had to fit in portable containers.

Anyways, that's it for this edition and thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email.

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