Wine warmers are among the rarest examples of porcelain made in southern China for the Straits Chinese market, porcelain also known as nonyaware. This is because the Straits Chinese (the localised Chinese of the Straits Settlements of Malacca and Penang on the Malay Peninsula, and Singapore) generally were not great drinkers of rice wine or any other fortified wines from China (which typically were warmed before being drunk.) Instead, they preferred cognac and other spirits from Europe. Few Straits Chinese wine warmers were commissioned and fewer still survived.
This example features the warming pot, a wine cup that sits inside the rim of the base, and a domed cover surmounted by a double-peach emblem. The interior mouth-rim of the warmer slopes upwards and the cup rests in the central cavity, with enough of the rim of the cup to be exposed so that it can be easily take out between the index finger and thumb. The warmer’s mouth-rim is decorated with coral-red flower sprays against a cream ground.
The set is decorated with phoenixes and peonies in pink cartouches against a turquoise-green ground. There are multi-coloured lapet borders and other borders with Taoist symbols.
The colour schemes of the cup, warmer base, and cover all match perfectly, even though the cup is by a different maker – as was usual. The cup would have belonged to a set of cups and the wine warmer itself was a separately made item.
The base of the warmer has a maker mark which reads ‘Xushunchang Zao’ 許順昌造. The cup has a factory mark which reads ‘Chenyitai/Yitai Zao’ 義泰.
Examples of Straits wine warmers are illustrated in Ho (1984, p.102), Kee (2004, p. 68), Kee (2009, p. 203), and Ee (2008, p. 199).
The set is without cracks or repairs. Any wear to the glaze is age and use related. The numbers ‘364’ have been written on the inside rim of the cover and on the inside of the warmer, presumably so that the two were not mixed up with other sets. Overall, this is a scarce example of a nonyaware wine warmer in fine condition. It was acquired in the UK and most probably has been in the UK since colonial times.
Ee, R., et al, Peranakan Museum A-Z Guide, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2008.
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.
Kee, M.Y., Peranakan Chinese Porcelain: Vibrant Festive Ware of the Straits Chinese, Tuttle Publishing, 2009.
Khoo, J.E., The Straits Chinese: A Cultural History, The Pepin Press, 1996.