ICCS Newsletter Summer 2018
For information on our programme, click HERE.
Please note our meeting venue,
United Arts Club,
3 Fitzwilliam Street,
(just off Baggot Street,)
and meeting days,
the FOURTH WEDNESDAY (mostly!)
of each month.
For information on our programme, click HERE.
2.Prof. Alan Fletcher UCD on Chinese Porcelain: The story of a
700-year old love affair: How China conquered the West through
If you had been walking on the Fitzwilliam Estate, later to be
Fitzwilliam Street, in the year 1722 you would, no doubt, have
been interested to learn that the year you were living in was to
be the focus of a gathering in the area nearly three hundred years
later, and surprised to discover that the reason for this focus
was the fact that 1722 was the year after which the mysterious,
white, translucent ceramic from China, named porcelain, extended
its palette range beyond the traditional blue and white to include
the pink tones of Famille-rose.
Alan Fletcher armed us with this piece of specialised knowledge as
part of a wide ranging talk on Europe’s, and indeed China’s, long
love affair with porcelain which provided the broader context for
his own love affair with the creations of the vitreous ceramic
which began when his father returned from India with a treasure
trove of highly ornate teapots, plates, vases, dishes and bowls
from China. Their whereabouts are now unknown but they succeeded
in firing the imagination of the young boy turned academic and
To begin with, Alan informed us about the differing kiln
temperatures needed to fire ovenware, stoneware and the higher
temperature, as well as the blend of clays (kaolin and China
stone) that are required to achieve the hard white purity of
porcelain, the secret formula that eluded Europeans for so long.
He brought along a 2000 year old, ovenware Han Horse, still
sporting traces of its original pigment, to preside over our sense
of wonder as we began our journey with the Song Dynasty(source of
the extremely rare and much prized Ru Ware) when porcelain was the
main export from China and we were let in on a little trick of the
trade as the copper band adorning the rim of a dish concealed the
fact that it was put in the kiln upside down so that the glaze
wouldn’t run. Knowing this just lent an added aura to the flawless
perfection of a Qing Dynasty piece, featuring two ladies, that is
rimless and free of kiln grit.
While the secret of its production remained out of reach, the
appetite of Westerners for porcelain was insatiable, fuelled by
the desire of the rich and powerful to surround themselves with
auspicious objects and the desire of others to imitate them.
Notable among collectors was Augustus the Strong, Elector of
Saxony and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a rich and powerful man but he
was weakened by an exotic ailment, a kind of lovesickness for
porcelain, that saw him bankrupt himself in pursuit of it and the
status it conferred.
It was Marco Polo who gave us the name for porcelain瓷器Cíqì (from
the Italian word porcellana as its shiny whiteness reminded him of
a cowrie shell, itself named on the basis of a fanciful
resemblance to porcellini/ little pigs) During the Ming Dynasty
blue and white porcelain became extremely popular and Europe
couldn’t get enough of it. Alan showed us 3 exquisite examples: a
spittoon featuring fierce dragons, a bowl and a stem cup for wine.
In time, due to a spot of industrial espionage, porcelain’s secret
was out and factories in Meissen in Germany, and later Spode and
Minton in England, where bone was added to achieve added
whiteness, began producing their own porcelain. However, Chinese
motifs, most famously the Willow pattern, retained their
popularity as the white ceramic continued to be seen as the proper
medium for purveying a vision of an Oriental paradise in scenes of
An ugly reality intervened in the 1850s in the shape of the Opium
Wars. Even the centre, in terms of porcelain production,
Jingdezhen, could not hold in the scenario that ensued and a
poignant image of the decline was their refusal of a request by
the boy Emperor for a sacrificial red imperial piece as they no
longer had the expertise to produce such work.
Alan allowed us to inspect, at first hand, a number of beautiful
examples of famille-rose porcelain featuring idyllic images . The
last plate brought together two of the great icons of Chinese
culture as the writing extols the virtues of tea. Fortunately none
of us tested any of them for hardness or left them in need of a
gilt and lacquer repair which, however skilfully done, robs them
of their musical ping.
But the niceties of porcelain’s beauty are in the eye of the
beholder, an eye like Alan’s capable of fine distinctions (second
nature to generations of ceramicists in China), sensitive to a
touch of indigo in the cobalt, for example, and able to savour the
purity of a whiteness unaided by extraneous material like bone. It
was a privilege to be in the company of this eminent protagonist
in the long and on-going love affair between the West and a
substance so prestigious and so synonymous in our minds with China
that we lend it that country’s name in everyday English usage.
3. Chinese New Year Dinner
19th February - A very enjoyable evening in the Green
Dragon Well Restaurant to celebrate the Year of the Dog.
4. Culture Talk for Chinese New Year at the Asia Market
Linda Hui Yang
Lunchtime Talk, Friday 23rd February
A distinguished panel ably and amiably chaired, as
is her wont, by ICCS President Deborah Wilson,
shared reminiscences/reflections about Chinese new
Year traditions, past and present, as part of the
Chinese New Year celebrations for the The Year of
Tucked away in an enchanting space in the bowels
of the Asia Market we were plied with some fine
fare as we listened to the conversation, including
foods that were new to some of us like the
delicious rice cake called mochi.
Howard Pau, founder of the Asia Market, told us
about the trek involved in meeting relatives at
the border between Hong Kong and mainland China
when the only means of transport available was a
bike. Hence the long and bumpy ride back to his
home village to meet relatives. A far cry from the
high speed trains of modern day China.
Dr Linda Hui Yang, an Intercultural Researcher and
Trainer in the School of Education in U.C.D.
remembers, as a child, being fed, at regular
intervals, in order to stay awake for the
celebratory dumplings at mid night! Only then
could you open the red packet, full of good luck
and money. She gave us a beautiful image, from her
childhood in Harbin, of a red and white landscape
as wrappings from fire crackers littered the snow.
Mandarin speaker and host on Chinese Central
Television, Richard Doran, told us that a line of
firecrackers were let off in honour of the bride
as she walked to her wedding ceremony which made
for an explosive entrance but perhaps, as Debbie
suggested, at the expense of temporarily deafening
Health and safety has regulated or consigned some
traditions to history but new ones have sprung up
in their place, notably the Spring Festival Gala
on television which caters not just for the
indigenous population but wraps ex-pat Chinese
communities in its massive, 5 hour long global
Our own ICCS member Trudi Kiang’s late husband Tao
was an astronomer, more devoted to science than
tradition, but she remembers the importance
attached by his parents to his being born as a
dragon. He made it but only by a few days!
After the talk there was time to stock up on a few
exotic foods from the bewildering variety on offer
in the Asia Market itself.
5. Chinese New Year Traditions Talk at the
Chester Beatty Library by Yanyi Blake
A wonderfully informative and colourfully
illustrated talk by ICCS Vice President Dr. Yanyi
Blake in the Chester Beatty Library, as part of
the Chinese New Year Celebrations for the Year of
the Dog which began on 19th February(the second
Full Moon after the Winter Solstice).
Yanyi explained to us about how the Chinese
lunisolar year is based on bringing exact
astronomical observations and the needs of
agriculture into harmony with each other and went
on to take us on a magical trip through the many
traditions associated with the Spring Festival,
beginning with the various methods deployed to
frighten off the wild beast Chu Xi such as the
colour red, loud noise and fire. My own favourite
is the mirror on the head of the lion in the Lion
Dance which scares Xi off with the reflection of
its own face!
The Spring Festival Couplets,Chunlian, are brief
but rich in meaning.
The ubiquitous red lanterns come in all
shapes and sizes.
Elders are honoured but the young are
certainly not forgotten!
The Family Reunion Dinner is at the
heart of the celebrations
with dumplings in the North and
Sticky Rice Cakes in the South.
and it is an important
opportunity to wish relatives
Temple Fairs, the Ice
Buildings at Harbin and
decorative paper cutting all
feature in the general
blossoming of culture.
Then there is the
marathon Spring Gala TV
show to bring the nation
A new moon, and
many sweet, symbolic
ones, in the form of
sticky rice balls,
herald the Lantern
Festival which brings
the celebration to a
6. Upcoming Events
28th March – Inner
Mongolia, Past and
Mr Yuyang Wang was
born and grew up in
Inner Mongolia. As an
independent film maker
Mr Wang frequently
travels back and forth
to China and engages
with the New Silk Road
Cultural and Art
Together with his wife
he will present us
with a historical
perspective on the
region as well as the
developments on Xian,
the Silk Road and the
intriguing world of
– The A.G.M. gives the
membership a say in
the running of our
Society, and an
opportunity to become
involved in the
-€20 per person.
Sichuan Chilli King
Restaurant, 100 A
Parnell St. 6.30 p.m .
maximum 16 places.
23rd May – United
Arts Club Party!
– Show and Tell.
encouraged to bring
along a Chinese
30th May – Asia
– Asia Market Tour
followed by Dim Sum
Supper, with a
"Goodie-bag" to take
home. €20 per person,
max number to attend:
20.Show and Tell.
– Annual Barbeque at
– Denis Mullen
– Richard Doran
– Linda Hui Yang Deeks
for the Society runs
from 1st January to
31st December. The
is €40, with a
reduced Student Rate
of €10, and a Life
of €300. Cheques to
be made payable to:
could pay by way of
Standing Order or
transfer. If so,
please email for
Newsletter is published by
the Irish-Chinese Cultural