By Ingrid C. Hanson, SEACS President (2012-2016)

A wedding gift from TG Ling, from his late wife’s collection, is a favourite ceramic piece. Unknown to me when I moved to Singapore in the 1980s was that Helen Ling had been a pioneer dealer in ceramics in China and Singapore and later, a co-founder of the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society. I was fascinated with Asia after a study trip in college and had moved to HK after graduate school. I found an appreciation for ceramics while working on a major acquisition in Singapore, and have kept studying and learning since, including finishing another post-graduate degree from SOAS. I am honoured to follow in Helen’s footsteps as a past president of SEACS, and delighted to have a piece from her personal collection.

The dish, decorated to the centre of the interior with a yin yang catfish motif, surrounded by the eight Taoist emblems and eight trigrams in gilt, the exterior with three large colourful floral sprays, all supported by a spreading foot enamelled with cresting waves.

The features of the dish are symbolic of life. The yin yang catfish motif: the yin, the dark swirl, is associated with shadows, femininity, and the trough of a wave repeated in the foot. The yang, the light swirl, represents brightness, passion and growth. The Bagua are eight symbols used in Taoist cosmology to represent the principles of reality. Eight interrelated ideas, seen as three lines, each line either ‘broken’ or ‘unbroken’, or symbols wrapped in ribbon, respectively representing yin or yang, with opposites facing each other: heaven and earth, mountain and lake, water and fire, thunder and wind. Life described in the decoration on a dish.

Special thanks to former SEACS council member, Susie Quek, for the description of the dish, and former council member Gretchen Liu for editing.