50 Years New in Asia: The Legacy of HIRANO KOTOKEN


The Hirano family name has stood for high aesthetics in Chinese art and it is indelibly associated with some of the world’s greatest collections and masterpieces in the field for the better of the 20th century, spanning over three generations. Assembled in the last 20 years by Ryoichi Hirano, the beautiful collection of Song dynasty ceramics presented in the sale The Legacy of HIRANO KOTOKEN pays homage to the late Tatsuo Hirano and the illustrious Hirano Kotoken dealership.

Join us live on 8 April for The Legacy of HIRANO KOTOKEN as part of Hong Kong Spring Sales 2023.



My friendship with Ryoichi Hirano stretches almost as far back as the twenty years he has spent assembling this beautiful collection of Song ceramics. As is often the case in our profession, our strong bond was initially forged over shared emotions marvelling at an object, or occasionally disapproving one, and over the delight in debating the nuance of a glaze colour or the trim of a footring. Over our years of friendship, I saw appear on his shelf or casually displayed on his desk many of the Song ceramics that we are presenting in this catalogue, but it is only recently that I have had the joy to see the group in its entirety. Ryoichi’s character and his taste are inseparable in my mind and this fine assemblage of ceramics presents itself like a journal, a travelogue of places and people, of moments in time, that charts the last twenty years of his life spent chasing the subtleties of the Song potter, whether in a modest black-glazed splashed tea measure, precious miniature Jun bubble bowl or the power of a superbly carved Cizhou vase. Every acquisition, no matter how small or significant, was handled with the same obsessive care and sensitive eye. A majority of the pieces in the collection have been in Japan for a long time, some of the celadons and black wares for nearly a millennium, others were acquired in Europe and America.

This group crystallises what many recognise as a distinctively Japanese aesthetic in Song ceramics, one that has been shaped over the centuries and moulded after heirloom ceramics passed down since the Song dynasty in Japan and after Chinese thought systems introduced to Japan around the same time. Indeed, the aesthetic taste one associates with Japan today represents in some way the purest form of ancient Chinese aesthetics, uncorrupted by the vicissitudes of dynastic change that have plagued China’s history.

For the better part of the 20th century, the Hirano family name has stood for high aesthetics in Chinese art and it is indelibly associated with some of the world’s greatest collections and masterpieces in the field. Ryoichi Hirano, third generation of this illustrious dealership, has chosen to present his collection of Song ceramics as an homage to Hirano Kotoken and to his late father Tatsuo Hirano who sadly passed away before the publication of this catalogue.

May this sale contribute to the legacy of one of Japan’s legendary dealerships.

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