5000 Years of Chinese Colours
Auction: 5 June 2020 • 10:00 AM HKT • Hong Kong

CHINA / 5000 YEARS 5 June 2020 • 10:00 AM HKT • Hong Kong
"Colour is a power which directly influences the soul."
― Wassily Kandinsky

S otheby’s ‘5000 YEARS’ is five millennia of heritage. It is 5000 years of Chinese colours, showcasing five millennia of archaic jades, ceramics and works of art. Within this broad spectrum, each of the colours narrates a storied past and evokes a long tradition of poetry. While the icy celadon glazes of the Song dynasty may bring to mind the sound of melted snow, the peachbloom glaze from the Kangxi period holds the promise of spring in the mountains, and a heart free of care. Discover 5000 years of colour in Chinese history in this season’s auction, beginning from the tones of the Neolithic period which emerge as whispers from the earth and culminating in the full kaleidoscopic range of the Qing dynasty.

Silent Tones of the Earth

“Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.”
—Oscar Wilde
A Small Jade Scraper Blade
Neolithic Period, Longshan Culture
Estimate: HKD 20,000-30,000

The translucent colours and warm tones of the Longshan culture jades provide a tantalising glimpse into the history of the earth from which ritual and utilitarian pieces were unearthed, and suggest the mysteries of a long vanished culture that flourished in Neolithic northeast China.

Expansion and Cultural Ascendancy
“Green is the soul of Spring. Summer may be dappled with yellow, Autumn with orange and Winter with white but Spring is drenched with the colour green.”
― Paul F. Kortepeter

A Sancai Incense Burner

Tang Dynasty
Estimate: HKD 40,000-60,000

Earthenware figures and vessels boldly glazed with splashes of verdant green and autumnal amber on a golden straw-coloured ground, the brilliant sancai colours evoke a sense of seasonal rhythms and the dazzling, cosmopolitan life of the Tang dynasty. It was a period of expansion, seeing unprecedented flourish of culture and artistic advancement.


Songs of the Literati

Age of Imperial Patronage

“How lovely yellow is! It stands for the sun.”

A Yellow-Glazed Dish

Mark and Period of Zhengde
Estimate: HKD 300,000-500,000

The striking rich yellow was strictly reserved for wares for the imperial court, produced at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen throughout the Ming dynasty and a direct descendant of the yellow lead glazes of the Tang dynasty.


The Kaleidoscopic Boom of Polychrome
“You ask me why I dwell in the green mountains; I smile and make no reply, for my heart is free of care. As the peach-blossom flows downstream and is gone into the unknown, I have a world apart that is not among men.”
― Li Bai
A Fine Peachbloom-Glazed Washer
Mark and Period of Kangxi
Estimate: HKD 500,000-700,000

Variegated tones of red flirt occasionally with youthful green, the beguiling peachbloom holds all of the promise of spring in the mountains, and an unencumbered spirit.

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
A Taihu Scholar's Rock With Original Stand
Qing Dynasty
Estimate: HKD 50,000-70,000

Water, sand and stone coalesce into abstract and physical form, attuned to the deafening force of nature and in harmony with the whisper-soft tones of the earth.


More Highlights from 5000 YEARS

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

Sell with Sotheby's

Sell with Sotheby's

Curious to know if your item is suitable for one of our upcoming sales?

Provide information and share images to request an online estimate now.

Start Selling