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Shiwan Green Glazed Chopstick Holder
Item No. 16966

19th - 20th Century, N/A, China
7.5" x 4.75" x 2.5"
( 19.05 x 12.065 x 6.35 cm)
(H x W x D)

Within the ceramic tradition of China, the pieces produced in Shiwan, known as Shiwan ware, are now well recognized for their fine modeling, vivid expression, and colorful glazes. Although the intimate appeal of Shiwan ceramics historically has been unappreciated because it was overshadowed by the appeal of the fine porcelains manufactured at the imperial kilns in China, Shiwan ware in the past several decades has come into its own as a fine, respected and now highly collected art form. The local, coarse-sand and inexpensive pottery clay was used by Shiwan potters to produce basic daily utensils, the most well known of which are the cooking vessels and tea pots which add earthy flavor to the food cooked within them. Known as the” Pottery Capital” for centuries, Shiwan traditionally produced pottery for every conceivable human need. In modern times. This is still its goal, but potters have added development of porcelain products to their repertoire. Thus, Shiwan is now known as a “comprehensive pottery and porcelain production base.”

Daily wares were the primary items produced in Shiwan which was said to produce pottery for every conceivable need – pots, cups, plates, vessels, and other utilitarian pieces. The pieces are well known for their brilliant flambé—or flame-like quality – glazes such as displayed in the apple green glaze of this chopstick holder, a prototypical piece of Shiwan ware.

According to Terese Tse Bartholomew (1 page 66) chopsticks are very significant accessories in China which are often included in a bride’s dowry because the word for chopstick (kuaizi) is also a pun which means “speedy arrival on sons' (kuaizi). For this reason, there was a custom that chopsticks were fastened above the door of a bride's room to signify a speedy pregnancy. (Welch, p. 10) As the primary goal of a Chinese wife is to produce sons to carry on the family name, take care of the family obligations for ancestor worship and bring good fortune and wealth to the family by passing civil examinations and becoming a high official, one can begin to see the importance of the pun on the chopstick holder. Only sons were permitted to participate in the rituals honoring one's family, and daughters left their family with a dowry to live with her husband's family. This resulted in a net loss of wealth to her family, and females had no way to increase the family's fortunes other than to give birth to sons.

There are traditionally four characters on a chopstick container either across the top or along the sides which read “baize qiansun," which is a wish for a hundred sons and a thousand grandsons. The chopstick holder is centered by an image of a bat hovering above and sometimes holding a coin in its mouth, which implies a wish for blessings in front of your eyes.

A piece very similar to this is included in the catalogue of an exhibition of Shiwan Ceramics at the Chinese Cultural Foundation of Chicago on page 51.


Terese Tse Bartholomew, “Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art,” Hong Kong, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2006.

Fredrikke Scollard and Terese Tse Bartholomew, , "Shiwan Ceramics: Beauty Color and Passion," San Francisco, Chinese Cultural Foundation of San Francisco, 1994.

Patricia Bjaaland Welch, 'Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery," Rutland, Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

Select for detailed information about Shiwan Ware Pottery.

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