Presented by Fine Art Asia
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.