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A Kangxi Wine Ewer

Kangxi Wine Ewer, which was probably used for ritualistic or ceremonial use.

Kangxi Wine Ewer, which was probably used for ritualistic or ceremonial use.

Whilst Christian communion involves the acceptance of wine, one can't help feeling more relaxed with the Oriental concept. Chinese porcelain wine ewers, whether in their original Ming or later Kangxi form, are far more than functional objects as they were produced to pay homage to ancestors – a toast to the dead if you like.

Appeasing a deceased relative may take many forms, the offering of food, or paper money, even terracotta horses and attendants would be seen as useful on the other side. However, the greatest care seems to have been lavished on wine ewers – although wholly practical, the sinuous beauty and fine decoration suggests they were intended for the grandest of recipients.

Generals encouraged consumption of wine before battle and if a warrior fell, his brothers in arms would sprinkle wine on the ground where he lay. Certainly the transition between the Ming and later Dynasty was a turbulent time that only settled during the reign of first Qing Emperor Kangxi.

The wine ewer pictured was made during his reign of Kangxi (1662-1722) and was certainly intended more for ritualistic or ceremonial use rather than as an everyday practical object, but I am sure you will agree that is fairly obvious!


  • Kangxi (1662-1722)
  • Ceramics

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About the Author

Nic SainteyNic Saintey
Ceramics and Glass

Nic Saintey has been a director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood since 2003 and heads up the Ceramics and Glass Department. He is part of the team specialising in Chinese ceramics and works of art.

Nic's first career was in the Armed Forces where he served both as a military parachutist and paramedic. He joined a firm of Somerset auctioneers in early 1995 and Bearnes during a period of expansion in June 2000.

His effervescent nature, sense of humour, broad knowledge and experience has seen him appear as an expert for BBC television programmes. He undertakes regular talks to both academic and general interest groups talking on subjects as diverse as Staffordshire pottery and pop culture, Chinese porcelain and the troubled relationship between Britain and the Orient, the English drinking glass and the Donyatt potters.

He is an occasional contributor of articles for national and local publications and is equally fascinated by the stories attached to pots as he is about the objects themselves.

His personal interests include Oriental and domestic pottery, but especially that produced in the West Country.

Accompanied by his Lurcher Stickey, he is a keen Moorland walker (but only in the winter), an increasingly slow runner and a chaotic cook who always eats his own mistakes and, yes of course, he collects pottery!