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Straits Chinese Kamcheng
China but for the Straits Market
late 19th century

height: 20.5cm, diameter: 19.8cm

This good-sized covered jar or kamcheng (kamcheng means 'covered vessel' or 'covered teacup' in Hokkien) was made in China to Straits Chinese
(
baba/nonya or peranakan) tastes. It is elaborately decorated in a variety of colourful polychromes with a predominantly pink ground. The base is decorated
with two main panels each with a bird, most probably a stylised phoenix, sitting on a peony bloom. Scrolling Indian lotus motifs surround the panels. Two pairs
of lugs for metal handles are applied to either side of the jar.

The cover is decorated with two panels each containing a bird and blooms. Further decoration includes a green border with more blooms, and Indian lotus
scrolling. The cover is surmounted by a crouching green Chinese lion-dog.

The
kamcheng is without chips. The rim of the base has a short hairline. The interior shows some old and small star cracks to the glaze. The polychrome glaze
has extensive bubbling as a result of the firing process. The piece shows plenty of evidence of use and age.

The precise purpose of
kamchengs is unclear. No doubt they were used for some sort of food storage and most probably the precise usage varied from family
to family. It is unlikely that they were used as soup tureens because unlike more newly arrived Chinese to the Straits settlements of Singapore, Malacca and
Penang, the Straits Chinese did not routinely serve soup with their meals.
Kamchengs were however usually commissioned as part of the wedding services
ordered from China.

Provenance: UK art market.

References: The Southeast Asian Ceramics Society - West Malaysia Chapter, Nonya Ware and Kitchen Ch'ing, Oxford University Press, 1981; Ho, W.M.,
Straits Chinese Porcelain: A Collector's Guide, Times Books International, 1983; Kee, M.Y., Straits Chinese Porcelain, Kee Ming Yuet Sdn Bhd, 2004; Ee, R.,
et al, Peranakan Museum A-Z Guide, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2008; and Kee, M.Y., Peranakan Porcelain: Vibrant Festive Ware of the Straits Chinese,
Tuttle Publishing, 2009.

Inventory no.: 1021 SOLD
This image shows a close-up of the  bubbling to the glaze that resulted during the firing
process of this piece. Only with a close-up view such as this are the bubbles apparent.