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Past Exhibits

Succeed in Gold and Shine brilliantly – Special Exhibition for Porcelain with Painted Enamels of the Yongzheng Reign (1723-1735)
A special exhibition of porcelain with painted enamels of Yongzheng period in the Qing dynasty.
  • Dates: 2012/12/01~2013/10/30
  • Gallery: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 203

Exhibit Info

Falangcai is a type of porcelain with painted enamels. In this exhibition, which takes the reign of Yongzheng as its subject, we investigate the development and transformation of falangcai porcelain from the perspective of technique and decorative patterns.
The falangcai porcelains that have been handed down to us mainly originate from the Qing court collection.  Because of their extremely fine and delicate decorations, they have been highly sought after by connoisseurs ever since the Forbidden City was opened to the public as the National Palace Museum. Their popularity has lead to various rumors about their provenance. For example, there have been claims that they originated from the Gu-yue-xuan (House of Gu-yue) and were painted by an artisan named Jin Cheng (courtesy name Xu Ying), or that some were painted by another artisan surnamed Hu. However, we are now able to determine from documents and records that all extant falangcai porcelains were stored in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qian-qing Gong) from the time of the Qing dynasty’s golden age onward. Not only are we able to trace the origins of all falangcai porcelains, but because the majority of them were stored in special wooden boxes made during the reign of Qianlong, we can conclusively show that falangcai porcelains did not originate from the “House of Gu-yue”, and that there is no derived version by an artisan named Hu. 
 “Golden Success (Jin-cheng)” and “Shining Brilliantly (Xu-ying)” are two seals which were frequently stamped on porcelain with painted enamels during the Yongzheng reign, especially on pieces painted with reddish flowers. By tracing back the origins of these porcelains, we can determine that Western enamel-painted wares and techniques were imported into the Qing court during the reign of Kangxi. For example, the Qing court began using enamels originally used on metal wares to decorate ceramic wares. Kangxi-era workshops were unable to produce many colors of enamel on their own, so they relied on imported enamels and had to blend different colored enamels to create more colors. During this period of Western influence, the unprecedented technique of using gold as colorant to make gold-red enamel made a huge impact on the Qing court. Both Kangxi and Yongzheng Emperors eagerly demanded that court artisans and enamellers continuously experiment in the hopes that the Qing Empire could create its own red enamel.
In the 6th year of the Yongzheng Emperor period (1728), Prince Yi (Yunxiang), was placed in charge of the enamel preparation project at the Imperial Workshops. The project yielded a significant breakthrough when they successfully created eighteen new enamel colors but not including the red enamel that the Emperors so strongly desired. The Emperor Yongzheng and Prince Yi did not excuse themselves from this unfinished work, and conducted further research on the production of this enamel. We are now able to use microscopes to examine falangcai wares, and have discovered that the gold-red enamels used by the Qing artisans contain gold particles, demonstrating that the court artisans of the Yongzheng reign did indeed discover the Western technique of using gold as colorant. The technique of creating gold-red enamel was passed down to the Yongzheng reign from the reign of Kangxi, brought from Guangdong province to the Qing court, and finally spread to Jingdezhen. This is an accomplishment which shines brilliantly from ancient to modern times, throughout China and foreign lands. “Golden Success” (Jin-cheng) and “Shining Brilliantly” (Xu-ying) are therefore particularly appropriate themes for this exhibition.
Futhermore, because the Yongzheng Emperor requested a particular “court-style type”, all the decorative patterns on falangcai porcelains had to meet the imperial standard of elegance and delicacy. The Yongzheng Emperor also appointed specific court painters, such as Tangdai, Daiheng, Hejinkun, Tangzhenji and Guiseppe Castilione to make drafts for painted enamel wares. As a result, regardless of whether they were decorated with ornamental patterns or combinations of poetry, calligraphy, painting and seals, falangcai porcelains are all extremely exquisite.
The National Palace Museum’s collection of the Yongzheng Emperor’s falangcai porcelains is the largest and finest in the world. This exhibition provides visitors with curators an opportunity to view authentic objects along with relevant archival records to advance the understanding of porcelains with painted enamels from the Yongzheng Reign.
Definitions:Falangcai, Yangcai, Fencai
Falangcai, Yangcai and Fencai are the three major terms used for Chinese porcelain painted with enamel. Falangcai porcelain is decorated with enamel pigments and combine Chinese and Western painting techniques, and was manufactured in the Qing court’s Imperial Workshops. Yangcai porcelain was manufactured in the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, and was sometimes decorated with enamel pigments. Fencai was a new term for Yangcai porcelain in the late Qing and early Republic of China periods.
(The above definitions are those used in this exhibition; however, we respect other classifications used in different contexts.)
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