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Fu, archaic

Fu, archaic

Reverberation of ancient times, an archaic reflection of hundreds of potter generations. Mysterious silence, and at the same time full of exuberant symbolism. Stories which cannot be told anymore, lost in the course of time. The visible things admonish and remind us of everything that is connected to the roots.

What is visible must be kept, in order to find what lies in the dark and is a part of today's pottery. It is a tribute to and appreciation of ceramic history to internalise all this. Turning soil into feelings, wishes and art fascinates me when I take some clay in my hands. This little pot contains all this and has shown me something I dream of and hope that it will live on for many generations.

Here are three old pots, propably all from the same pottery. They originate from the province of Canton, China. They are approximately between 100 and 150 years old.

They were made using the coiling technique. Propably an old wooden mould has been used. The clay coil was pressed into the mould in order to create the basic shape. On the inside of the pot we can still see the texture of the coils. The outside surface was worked and flattened with a paddle.

The octagonal pots were then decorated with plant and animal reliefs. Afterwards they were painted with blackbrown engobe and partly glazed. The encrusted hand-painted glaze changed its colour after firing to blackish blue where glaze drips occurred. The pots have eight stair feet which get wider towards the top. The size of the pots is 30 x 30 x 20 cm. On the four wide sides flowers, grasses, aubergines, butterflies and dragonflies are pictured. On the narrow sides there are bats applied, alternately hanging with the head down or up. In China, the bat is a synonym for good luck. The word for bat „fu“ sounds the same as the word for good luck „fu“. Using the bat decoration expressed the wish for good luck. All four bats were shaped in a mould and then, like the other figurines, applied to the leatherhard clay.


We can assume that these pots are from a serial production. All pots vary only in the different motifs applied to them. Propably the individual potters in this pottery were quite free to choose the motifs themselves.

One side of this pot shows a lotos plant and a duck or goose. Lotos is the symbol for enlightenment. The roots, growing in the mud, symbolise human entanglement and passions. Leaves and flowers, opening to the sun, stand for purity. Chinese „Ya“, the duck, is not very commonly used in China's symbolism. The meaning of this pot might be „may you pass your exam successfully“ or „marital happiness“.

Should the bird be a goose, then the meaning would be „the flying brant may prolong the years.“

This is the replica I tried to make. It should not be compared to the original pots, but was a kind of empathising and understanding of a time passed long ago, but is nevertheless still perfectly up-to-date concerning the elements „earth and fire“.


The open mouths of the bats are interesting, but they have a very practical reason. Applying such motifs implies the danger that they could explode during the firing process. Opening the mouths allows possibly existing air pockets to exhaust more easily and reduces the danger of exploding.

Size: 29 cm x 29 cm x 19 cm  - 6/1990

Translation: Heike van Gunst


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