Saturday, February 10, 2007

China's Pet dog stamps

Year 2006 was the year of dog. Dogs have traditionally been considered as human's best friends. So then, it was not surprising that China Post issued a set of 4 stamps to showcase some of the rarest and most popular pet dogs in China.

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large, powerful, and well built dog but with a noble and gentle appearance. The dogs are well adapted to the climates of the Himalayas and to the harsh high mountain living. For thousands of years, it has served as guardian and protector of live stocks, homes and traveling caravans of the Tibetan people. Very little was known about them until in recent years, when having them as pets have become popular in the Western world. Today, pure Tibetan Mastiff is hard to find, but dedicated and concerned breeders continue to promote awareness for the well being these impressive dogs.     Info: American Tibetan Mastiff Association

The Pekingese dog has been a companion dog of kings and queens for centuries. They were one of the purest and oldest breed of dogs in the world due to their exclusive function as royal pets. Their appearance has hardly changed at all. Because they look like miniature lions, their name in Chinese means "the lion dog". An interesting story I found in Wikipedia is that the Empress CiXi of China liked to present these dogs to her American friends. One of them was presented to the daughter of Ted Roosevelt.     
Info: Wikipedia

Below is an old photo of a Pekingese from 1912.
They certainly know how to take good pictures of dogs back then.

Pugs are really popular as pet dogs. They have a very wrinkly face and very large eyes. They are generally small with short but stout legs and very cheerful.


Chow Chow dogs are puffy looking dogs the I really like. Their name in Chinese means "puffy lion dog", which suits them alright. They probably originated from Mongolia but I am not sure. They are also very popular pet dogs and I see them on the street all the time.  I found an article online about Chow Chow。 It says "There is a beautiful and ancient fairy-tale that says that while God painted the sky blue, he was followed by a determined Chow Chow who licked up the drops that fell with his tongue." That is the reason why Chow Chows have blue tongues. Very imaginative indeed.  Info: The ChowChow Blog

Finally, here's a cover I received last year. Love and take care of your pets.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

ShiWan Figurines

On Feb 3, China post has issued a set of 2 stamps depicting ShiWan Figurines, so maybe just a little bit of our rich ceramic making history today.   Credit:周俊容 2 MCs for the set of ShiWan figurines

The ShiWan Kiln in present day GuangDong province, has been in business since at least before the Song Dynasty (960-1279) . Although ceramic produced from ShiWan may not be as highly regarded as the other Kilns such as the Jun, Ding, Guan, Ge, and Ru kilns, which were official kilns for the royal family, it has made it’s mark as a major branch of practical and decorative ceramic art. 

During the Ming and Ching dynasty (1368-1911), ShiWan ceramic has reached it’s prime due to the robust international trade in GuangDong. I believe GuangDong was one of a few commercial ports opened to foreign trade in China under the Ching Government. You may notice that many of the Chinese export ceramics sitting at various European museums nowadays were either made in GuangDong and or were once in the trade junks leaving the port of Canton.

In terms of its artis tic style, ShiWan has always had its deep roots in creating and producing ceramics for and by the ordinary commoners. The famed ShiWan ceramic figurines, a major representative kind of the kiln’s style, often depict daily routines and activities of the locals. You may see scenes of old men playing chess, people smoking pipe or drinking tea, fishermen fishing in a boat and so on. 

-Man with a drinking hulu

To add to the artistic value of the figurines, many mythical and historical figures were produced. They are often meticulously crafted, with great attention to the smallest detail, use of thick and colorful glazes, striking contrasts and looking realistic. The fact that it’s not an official kiln for the royal family may have contributed to ShiWan ceramic’s great flexibility as an art form and the wide range of topics it could mold itself to. 

ShiWan ceramic making is a treasure that the Chinese should continue to develope for future generations. Oh, by the way, this is also a joint issue between Macau and China.

The Stamps - China
Left: An elderly man and a young child looking for plum flowers out in the snow.

Right: Princess Zhao Jun leaving the Han Court and journeyed to the outer skirts of the country for her marriage with the XiongNu tribe leader. 

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