Monday, February 4, 2013

White and blue china from grandma

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Chinese New Year. Every year, my families and I would go back to mainland China from Hong Kong to celebrate this important festival with my grandma. This is the first year that we are here for the new year without her. Last year in October she suddenly felt ill and lost her appetite. After staying in hospital for some time and without getting better, my relatives and my mother decided to send her back to her old home in a village(because the villagers believe that if one's time on earth is up, one has to remain in one's own house rather than making a death bed in a hospital or elsewhere.) Doctors came to check on her from time to time.

My aunts and uncle took turn to take care of her and my mother sometimes went back to China to see her. After a month we lost her. We had a hard time believing that she could leave so quick. But I guess at the age of 91, even the lightest illness can be too much a burden for her.

I took out the china that are passed down to me and had a good look at them as a gesture to celebrate this festival with her spiritually. There is nothing fancy here. They are just china used by villagers in their everyday life.

The first one I am going to share is this plate the size of a biscuit plate. In the middle there is a hand-painted carp. Carps are considered the creatures that can bring good luck. And because the word 'fish' has the similar pronunciation of the word 'remainder'/'left-over', it's often the subject painted in oriental china. In the old days, people were concerned about food supply so they often worried about their next meals, so having something left for the next meal is very important and so this carp signifies 'remain something for next meal/there is always food for next meal."

You can see that there are scratches in the middle. My mother told me that they used to eat off from this plate very often.

The next I am going to share is this rice bowl with four cranes painted around. Cranes signifies living a long life. Yes, every subject found in oriental china carries meaning. It is said that blue and white and cranes bring a sense of harmony.

This crane pattern was used during the 40's/50's up to the 80's for in the 80's I still saw this crane pattern. It's marked with what looks like an 'S'.

Next is this bigger bowl usually for containing meat or dishes with sauces. When my mother got married and held banquet in the village, she used all the bowls to contain food. This adds more meaning to this type of bowl.

Funny pattern is painted around but I could not make out what it is. I guess this one was made from the early 30's.

It has one of the Chinese characters from my grandfather's name engraved at the well of the bowl. This means hopefully he was blessed with enough food througout his whole life.

I guess this piece is the earliest example of all three pieces. The well is a bit rough.

I used the carp plate to contain sesame crunch/also called smiley crunch because it's like a blooming flower when cooked. It's one of the typical snacks for Chinese New Year.

These are the three pieces I choose to present here today. Looking at all three pieces and using them, they bring me back to the time of simplicity,  it connects me to the past when many people were struggling with food/life, the past of people who lived during the civil war/WWII and felt lucky to be alive.

         In memories of my grandma, Mrs. Wong Ma Tai Hou.


  1. What a lovely post about your grandmother and family. The history of the bowls and plate are fascinating and you share it with love.
    I am so thankful for the food my family has on our table.

  2. Hi Felicity,
    I am delighted with your family heirlooms!!! For me, Chinese porcelain has to do with the antiques world, with history - namely Portuguese history, since our navigators were the first Europeans to bring loads of Chinese porcelain to Europe...)but not with everyday items used by grandma...
    Thanks for sharing these precious items and all the information about them.

  3. Your post touched me deeply.I hope these special dishes are used throughout your life and used in many celebrations of the best life offers, in remembrance of those who came before us ( your grandmother) and bring great joy to you especially.

  4. Oh what a beautiful post made me feel all warm inside, I love the Chinese culture. I tell all my friend I was Chinese in my past life. The dishes are beautiful and full of memories so special.Thanks so much for sharing this...

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