Fine Art Asia 2023 Academic Programme


Chinese Miniatures

Presented by Fine Art Asia

Speakers: Dr Koos de Jong, Art Historian
Date: 6 October 2023 (Friday)
Time: 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Language: English

Early miniatures from China can portray virtually anything: deities, mythical figures, people, animals, trees, plants, fruits, architecture, means of transport and even clouds and mountains. As least as numerous are utilitarian objects, such as tableware, tools, weapons, furniture and clothing. In the objects’ production – always in a scaled-down version of comparable large objects – widely diverse materials were used: jade, bronze, ivory, ceramics, wood and many other materials. The miniatures had many different functions: some served as insignia, others as fetish objects or devotionalia, some were used as burial gifts, and others still used as toys. They could express good wishes, and at times they even served as bribes. Since many Chinese words are pronounced the same despite signifying different things, some of the miniatures have a double meaning, hiding a ‘secret’ message behind the explicit one.

What makes the objects even more interesting is also the representation of everyday and intimate themes that were nigh-on taboo in the official fine arts: belief and superstition, love and erotica, work and play, wealth and poverty. Humour, too, often played a role in the motifs. The small works thus grant new and surprising insights into Chinese society and everyday life over a period of more than 7,000 years.





Dr Koos de Jong is a highly accomplished scholar with a rich background in art history, medieval archaeology, and archival science. He graduated from the University of Amsterdam in 1976 and went on to receive his PhD in 2020. Throughout his career, spanning from 1977 to 2009, he held various notable positions, including director of the Provincial Overijssels Museum in Zwolle, Vice Director, and Chief Curator at the Netherlands Office for Fine Arts in The Hague, Director of the Zaanse Schans & Zaans Museum in Zaanstad, and Director of the European Ceramic Work Centre in‘s-Hertogenbosch. Since 2009, Dr de Jong has been actively engaged as an independent researcher and publicist. From 2015 to 2020, he served as a staff member at the University of Amsterdam.

Dr Koos de Jong has written numerous articles and books on a wide range of subjects. His areas of expertise include the pewterer’s guild in medieval Amsterdam, the Dutch medieval interior, medieval sculpture, ceramics, modern design, and architecture. Among his recent notable publications are “Dragon & Horse: Saddle Rugs and Other Horse Tack from China and Beyond” (CA Design, Amsterdam – Hong Kong 2013) and “Small China: Early Chinese Miniatures” (Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart 2021).