"Precious as the morning star" comes from poetry by the Qianlong Emperor in the 18th century. Both "Precious and few as morning stars" and "The morning star truly is precious" are lines that compare something rare and treasured to the fleeting and infrequent phenomenon of a morning star. Qianlong’s line for "Viewing Guan (Official) wares of the Zhao-Song dynasty as morning stars" clearly indicates that he valued specifically Song Guan porcelains as precious treasures.
Judging from historical records, so-called "Official kilns" of the Song dynasty refer to sites producing porcelains for the court in the Northern Song and those in the Southern Song at Xiuneisi and Jiaotanxia. In more recent times, the exploration and study of Southern Song Official kilns trace back to the 1930s with evidence gathered and fieldwork by Chinese and Japanese scholars. Though Southern Song Official kilns could not be clearly distinguished at the time, the appreciation for celadons they produced and the issue of solving related questions continued into the 1990s. With the discovery of the Laohudong kiln site in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, many scholars have come to recognize that it and Jiaotanxia as indeed where official wares were fired in the Southern Song. In comparison, our understanding of Northern Song official kiln sites has not only progressed along lines revealed by textual analysis but also by researching imperial poetry from the Qianlong Emperor and excavations at the Qingliang Temple site in Baofeng County, Henan Province. In doing so, the Ru kilns have become considered as possible sites for the Northern Song kilns.
The National Palace Museum has in its collection a large number of celadon porcelains from the former Qing court, and even the places where many of them were stored can be traced. Furthermore, based on the imperial poetry on some, we can learn more about the ideas that the Qianlong Emperor gained by sifting through texts and about the ideas and categorizing of Guan wares in the eighteenth century. Using the past to view the present, how do we ultimately view these precious works from the ages? This exhibition takes into consideration the question of how to use cultural artifacts to not only trace the history of the Qing court collection but also how to integrate modern viewpoints in art history as a way of reinvigorating our understanding of the places, periods, and related issues behind the production of individual wares. This exhibition is divided into four sections on "Ru Wares and the Northern Song Official Kilns," "Southern Song Official Kilns," "The Crackle of Celadon," and "Connoisseurship and Discovery." It is hoped that bringing together these historical objects, textual records, and archaeological materials will illuminate the background for celadon production in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, the emotions engendered by their appreciation, and the features of specific works.