Chinese Ceramic Spoons

The Beauty of Chinese Ceramic Spoons is Not Skin Deep*

Contributed by by Lam Pin Foo, SEACS President (1991-2001)

Fig. 1: Fine blue & white late 18th century spoons and two yellow-coloured spoons of early 20th century period
Fig. 2: A set of fine mid-19th century Nonya spoons which once graced a prominent Peranakan mansion in Penang
Fig. 3: An assortment of spoons ranging from late 17th to early 20th century

Looking back to my thirty-five years’ love affair with collecting antique Chinese ceramic spoons always brings back joyful and exciting memories. I can vividly recall scouring for these much ignored and elusive common dining utensils in three continents. When I first became a novice collector in the late 1960s, I had to endure painful learning experiences which are documented in my posting of February 20081. However unpleasant these experiences were, they have taught me an indelible lesson in collecting: that it takes years of experience and learning to become a shrewd and cultivated collector, and there are no short cuts to it.

In the course of [these] three decades, I had left my footprints in three continents in hot pursuit of the common Chinese ceramic spoons and these experiences have greatly enriched my life. More importantly, they have given me countless hours of delightful pleasure and will continue to do so in the years to come.

When I first started collecting them, there were very few spoon collectors in Singapore. Three decades later, as far as I know, the number has swelled and is still growing. After years of collecting them, I now have about 600 pieces of spoons, of various categories, colours, shapes, sizes, motifs and differing qualities. The marvel is all have a theme or story to tell within such a tiny space. As I had said earlier, these spoons, crafted and individually painted by human hands, have a beauty which is more than skin deep. They were produced by master craftsmen at a time when there was hardly any time pressure to meet commercial demands. It was also a labour of pride and love for them. It is a miracle that, despite their constant usage over such a prolonged period of time, these fragile dining tools have managed to survive in good condition, save for some wear and tear, to be admired and deeply valued by keen collectors of spoons everywhere. Hurray and long live the Chinese spoons!

1 My Reflections on Life dated 29 February 2008 at
* Extract with kind permission from Lam Pin Foo’s blog, My Reflections on Life, at dated 31 March 2010
* The complete article at