Monday, November 05, 2012

China House Museum - Famous Porcelain House [中国瓷房子艺术馆] @ Tianjin (天津), China

During our super short stay in Tianjin (it lasted not more than five hours), we were brought to this house that is notable for being embellished with millions of ancient porcelain pieces!

According to our local guide, Tianjin was established as a trading port a long time ago and starting from the Ming Dynasty, porcelain wares for the imperial palace had to be vetted for quality in Tianjin (due to its proximity to the capital) before they can be transferred to Beijing.

So what happened to those that could not make the quality cut? They will be destroyed with the pieces scattered in the ocean that borders the city. A wealthy businessman by the name of Zhang Lianzhi started collecting them and amassed such a huge collection; he decided to decorate a house with them!

Sounds crazy yet convincing? I thought so until i started sourcing for some basic information about this porcelain house and so far, could not find any link with the story on scattered porcelain pieces rejected by the imperial officers.

Regardless of its history, it was indeed a building made up of priceless porcelain, with some dating as far back as the Han Dynasty!

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholders and i am afraid the porcelain house is far from being considered as beautiful in those short-sighted eyes of mine.

It was no doubt an interesting visit and i was blown away by the fact that it was a marvelous decorative feat but in term of visual, it was a failed piece of work in my opinion.

Let's enter the mansion and you shall make your own judgment on what you feel.

Facing the main door was a big vase literally fed with money! There must be some story cocked up to encourage such behaviour! I am thinking along the line of a "wishing vase"; how unsurprising.

Ceiling of the building from the first floor. Notice those claws? They were a continuation from the porcelain dragon which stretched for 768 meters outside the building.

Besides porcelain, the museum was also decorated with four hundred pieces of jade stone carving and twenty tonnes of crystal, like amethyst.

Famous Chinese paintings were re-created using porcelain pieces. The one above was part of a painting [周昉挥扇仕女图] that hailed from the Tang era.

Another one was a crowing chicken [黄胃报晓图] by a modern Chinese artist who passed away in 1997. There were many others although i would much prefer to see the real' paintings than these bad replicates.

Even this version was more pleasing to the eyes than the mosaic looking one.

A balcony on the highest floor accessible to the public had a view featuring both new and old faces of Tianjin. It was at this time that my parents escaped from the museum guide who was using a loud hailer that sounded incredibly irritating for those standing around her!

Mom started playing with the antique cannon.

Close-up of the museum's facade. In addition to the porcelain vases, there were over three hundred stone lions within the compound.

The original building was actually a hundred year old French villa. As you could probably see, no trace of that remained except for maybe the structure.

Antique furniture like the above wooden cabinets was placed on every level. It gave me the feeling that it was more for storage than historical or decorative purposes.

Those dragon claws i mentioned earlier had 'heads for fingernails! Not exactly the right items for auspicious creatures like the dragon.

Top down view from the highest floor with the hardly noticeable 'wishing vase' on the first floor. I should have paid the local narrator more attention but pictures were of a higher priority and i could barely stand the noise coming out from the hailer.

Out into the great sunshine (which was still marginally cooler than Singapore) where a large incense stick holder stood guard over the locked main entrance.

These incense sticks were to honour these headless statues! 

No matter how prehistoric they might be, i could not help wondering if there is more to the construction of this porcelain house. Is it merely a piece of art? 

One thing i am sure is that should the house ever be abandoned, it would definitely generate a lot of rumours on paranormal activity. The headless statues, these porcelain pillow cats, the use of heads for the dragon's fingernails, the numerous stone lions etc; things that could make a person's mind wander. 

Especially at night. I could so imagine hearing the above porcelain pillow kids laughing from the China's national emblem at the stroke of midnight!! 

There were exceptions of course; like this colourful hand support wall cemented with fragments of ancient porcelain that reminded me so much of the traditional Chinese hundred-patch quilt.

As the edges of the broken pieces remained sharp, it would only be a matter of time before a hyperactive kid cuts him/herself. So parents, please do keep an eye on your kids!

Need the ladies' room? Keep your bag in the locker! This rule was baffling until our local guide explained that even the toilets were similarly decked out in valuable porcelain pieces and the rule was in place to prevent people from stealing.


As you can see, stealing was already a prevalent issue. For all you know, future visits might involve depositing your bag in a counter before entering! 

Our last stop was to check out the tiny bubbles on porcelain that could only be seen using a microscope. For those who continued to be marveled by the porcelain house, you may have your pick of expensive porcelain wares available in the same location.

In the near future, this could develop into another agent-commissioned shopping tour that extol the benefits of using porcelain products.

After what i had been through, you seriously cannot blame me for being sarcastic.

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Location
72 Chi Feng Road(赤峰道), 
He Ping District (和平区), Tianjin

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