CHINESE EXPORT SILVER: “Sailing into the tiger’s mouth”

The SHING WO [SHENG HE] 和勝 artisan silver workshop in Canton was probably the most masterful in creating detailed miniature items of silver; a much-overlooked area of late Qing and Republic era Chinese silver-making.

What the West would probably call a “junk boat” finds its roots back in the Han dynasty; the Qing dynasty equivalent was not far removed from its Sung dynasty forebears that were in effect a Chinese equivalent of Western clipper.

The detailing of this miniature gunboat 戎克船 Rong ke chuan is so acute that it brings to life how life on these boats must have been back in the day.

The miniature was made for the Canton and Hong Kong retailer Wang Hing, it is grossly unfair that the Shing Wo workshop hardly ever receives credit. 

These miniatures were particularly popular from the late 19th century through to the late 1930s as the actual boats were a regular part of the Hong Kong bay area everyday scenery and the stretch of the Pearl River [珠江 Zhu Jiang] estuary, also known as the Boca Tigris [虎門 Hu men – lit.”tiger’s gate”] leading up to Guangzhou [Canton]. This particular example is in remarkably good condition.

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