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Gallery 203 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is part of the Asian Art Department, and is devoted to Chinese ceramics. In particular, the porcelains presented here reveal ‘the interchanges between Chinese ceramics and those in other parts of the world’ . One of the selected items is this small dish (25.1 cm wide, and 28.5 cm long).
Dish in the shape of Mount Fuji with a design of horses and deer, Ming dynasty ca. 1620–30. Metropolitan Museum (Purchase, Barbara and William Karatz Gift, Gift of C. T. Loo and Company, by exchange and Rogers Fund, by exchange, 2010 (2010.206)
It is made from porcelain, using the characteristic white clay found near the southern Chinese kiln town of Jingdezhen. It has been decorated with blue designs, brushed onto the clay surface before the object was glazed and then fired at high temperature. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), hundreds of thousands of such so-called ‘blue-and-white’ porcelains were produced in Jingdezhen, so that in itself does not explain the choice of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to select it for display in Gallery 203. The shape, however, does explain the choice. The shallow dish (5.3 cm in height) is wide on one side and narrow on the other, with rounded edges on either side of the design in the middle. Instead of laying the dish flat, one could stand it up on its wider side, with the narrow shape at the top, to reveal a shape not unlike that of the famous Mount Fuji in Japan. (more…)
In the second half of the eighteenth century, the botanist Martinus (Martin) Houttuyn described Japanese soy as follows: ‘een Lijmerig en niet onaangenaam ziltig Sap, dat in Flesschen overkomt, en, in plaats van Vleesch-Sap of Sjeu, over Erwten en andere Spyzen gegeten wordt om den Appetyt te verwekken’ (1). Roughly translated into English, the statement reads: ‘Japanese soya is a viscous and not unpleasantly savoury juice, which arrives in bottles, and is consumed instead of meat-juice or gravy with pulses and other dishes, to raise one’s appetite’.
The passage was included in the section on herbs (kruiden) in a multi-volume study entitled ‘Natural history’ or ‘Extensive description of the animals, plants and minerals, according to the system of Linnaeus’ (Natuurlyke Historie of uitvoerige beschryving der dieren, planten en mineraalen, volgens het samenstel van Linnaeus). (more…)