Kintsugi  

The art of mending. 

We used to believe (and many still do) that the more an object is being used, the more soulful it becomes.  There were times where we embrace stained wood, worn jeans and leather goods.  Since the 16th century, Japanese has been embracing the "mottainai" virtue, understanding resources are finite, goods should be made to last, and mend until the object can no longer serve its intended function.  Extending the lifecycle of an object  is a norm. 

Ceramics Repair in China

China has extensive history in ceramics repairing.  At the time, mending and recycling is a common virtue.  Among the wide variety of methods developed by the emperor's court, repairing cracks with metal staples/clamps was the most popular among civilians.  It was considered as the strongest and most durable.  Many people may think it is not aesthetically pleasing but in late Ming dynasty (15th century), metal clamping had evolved from pragmatism to a special aesthetics signifying antiquity which many collectors raved.  Many cracked vessels with staples were depicted in Ming's document, paintings and wood carvings, as ambience of scholastic and cultural appreciation.  Signs of repair became the symbol of high-value.  With the extensive cultural exchanges between China and Japan at that time, it is not difficult to imagine this influenced Japan's aesthetic preference in ceramics appreciation.  

Ching's Emperor's Taste

Ching dynasty ceramics are intricate, colorful and ornate. The emperors of Ching dynasty (16th to 19th century) were advocates of fine ceramics and had ordered extensive archival on repair methods and artifacts.  The idea was also to preserve old artifacts that can no longer be produced in their own era.  At the time, a range of repair methods and material were experimented and used by the court artisans including egg-white mixed with rice, copper bracing, tar, lacquer, wax, metal nails.  Artisans with explicit skills also creatively repurpose a teapot as a vase by adding customized metal parts.  

Mending with gold existed in China, mainly as gold-smithing but for unknown reason it was never documented extensively as compare to other methods done by the court during the time. 

The development of a range of repair methods from Ming (1368-1644) to Ching (1644-1912) dynasty shows the change in preference, appreciation and taste. The two main approaches were to highlight the imperfection with decorative metal braces, or to completely disguise any sign of repair.   Either approach is not any less in terms of artisan's skills.  Decisions are driven by both function as well as taste and appreciation of the time.

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