China's art objects and traditionally manufactured products have long been sought by collectors—from porcelains and silk fabrics to furniture and even the lacquered chopsticks that are a distant relation to ones found in most Chinese restaurants.Things Chinese presents sixty distinctive items that are typical of Chinese culture and together open a special window onto the people, history, and society of the world's largest nation. Many of the objects are collectibles, and each has a story to tell.
The objects relate to six major areas of cultural life: the home, the personal, arts & crafts, eating & drinking, entertainment, and religious practice. They include items both familiar and unfamiliar—from snuff bottles and calligraphy scrolls to moon cake molds and Mao memorabilia. Ronald Knapp's evocative text describes the history, cultural significance, and customs relating to each object, while Michael Freeman's superb photographs illustrate them. Together, text and photographsoffer a unique look at the material culture of China and the aesthetics that inform it.
Ronald G. Knapp has been carrying out field research in China's countryside on cultural and historical geography since 1965. Currently SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York, New Paltz, he is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including, most recently,Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia: The Eclectic Architecture of Sojourners and Settlers andChinese Bridges: Living Architecture from China's Past; andChinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage of a Nation. He is co-editor with Kai-Yin Lo ofHouse Home Family: Living and Being Chinese.
Michael Freeman specializes in reportage and in modern design and architecture. One of Smithsonian magazine's principal photographers for more than three decades, he has photographed extensively in Asia and has produced 117 books. Among these areAngkor: The Hidden Glories ("A remarkable book, a superb evocation." —Wall Street Journal); the award-winningJapan Modern; Things Japanese; Things Thai; Spirit of Asia; In the Oriental Style; andChina Contemporary, among many others. Freeman's books on photography are international bestsellers, with two million copies sold, and have been published in twenty languages.
"Besides Mao gadgetry, art lovers will find plenty of inspiration from other collectibles featured in this well researched book. These range from household furnishings and religious icons to ethnic minority jewelry and opium pipes, all good stuff that illustrates aspects of China's cultural history and its people's artistic taste that is highly recognized in art markets around the world. Every item covered has a history of its own, and Knapp's approach to history is comprehensive." —The Nation
"The ever-observant and longtime China scholar Ron Knapp rewards readers with his rich insights into the meaning and histories behind objects—from bird cages to dragons—that sing of Chinese civilization's inspiring contributions to our world." —Nancy Berliner, PhD, author ofYin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House andThe Emperor's Private Paradise
"Ron Knapp, with his broad grasp of Chinese history and culture, provides insights and highlights of taste, style, and social and cultural developments behind the particular 'things' in this book, captured beautifully and skillfully by the lenses of Michael Freeman." —Kai-Yin Lo, designer and author