Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Art Markets in Asia, Past and Present

I'm back from a long hiatus dedicated to writing and teaching, and it's time to update the blog with some interesting material I've unearthed over the past months! Working on the topic of Chinese imports in the world of early modern tea practice over the past year has engendered a deep interest in the burgeoning global market for Chinese antiquities and art. This New York Times video piece does a nice job of exploring the pleasures, and the perils, of the current international interest in Chinese art. Returning to the premodern world, my work on the medieval and early modern market for karamono (literally "Chinese things") in Japan has turned up some really interesting materials that readers of this blog may find of interest. One recent publication has proved particularly enlightening:
Hakata: The Cultural World of Northern Kyushu This newly published edited volume from Brill offers a multi-faceted introduction to the northern Kyushu region of Hakata, a key early entrepôt for trade objects (and people) from China, Korea and the Ryukyu islands, many of whom took up more-or-less permanent residence in Kyushu. Two chapters were of particular interest for my research: 1)The first of these was Andrew Cobbing's "The Hakata Merchant's World: Cultural Networks in a Centre of Maritime Trade". This chapter not only explores Hakata's unique position as a trade city in a position of relative autonomy similar to that exercised later in 15th-century Sakai, but also features the activities and connections of at least one figure important to the tea world, the merchant teaman Kamiya Sotan (author of the tea diary known as Sotan nikki). The comparative reading Cobbing provides for the cases of Hakata and Sakai was fascinating and thought-provoking, and his account of how Kamiya's fortunes rose and fell with alliances he built with Japan's unifiers (particularly Hideyoshi and Ieyasu) offered me some valuable insights into what the limits of merchant-warrior tea networks looked like in practice during the late 16th century. 2) Following directly on the heels of Cobbing's chapter is Kazushige Horimoto's "Chanoyu in Hakata: Zen, Karamono and the Reception of Tea Ceremony." Horimoto offers keen insight into tea activities in the region, both prior to and after the rise of the Sen-family schools. Translated by Tim Cross (another contributor to this volume and my on-site research adviser during a stint in Japan 2011-2012), this essay appear originally in Japanese as "Chanoyu kara mita Hakata" in Tanihata Akio's Sado no rekishi (Kyoto, Tankosha, 1999). Tying the development of a localized chanoyu culture into Hakata Zen, the karamono trade, and the roles of Hakata's gōshu merchants (like Kamiya), Horimoto also traced the engagement of the local Ōtomo clan with tea and the collection of Chinese objects, as well as their role in promoting the locally-produced Ashiya tea kettles, such as this example from the Tokyo National Museum:
I recommend this book to students of premodern Japan and fellow chanoyu enthusiasts.

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