of an historical and a contemporary Harry Parkes chamber pot 

 

In 1856, in the years right before Hong Kong became a British colony, the Englishman Harry Parkes became British Consul at Guangzhou for a period of four years. No matter what kind of man Parkes had been, this appointment would have been distasteful to the Chinese.

The potters of shekwan, however, found a means to quietly protest Harry Parkes position over them. They made ceramic utensils in the form of Harry Parkes wine pots, Harry Parkes pillows, and the piece de resistance, a chamber pot in the form of Harry Parkes himself. The latter was made by the reknowned artist Chen Weiyan(陈渭岩).Chen, in addition to being an outstanding artist had a reputation as being a bit of a rake. Chen’s self portrait, glazed in black, is housed in Macau’s museu de Luis Camoens. Shekwan potter and beloved teacher Ho Ping-tsung pointed to the undone button at the neck of the self portrait as indicating the rakish nature of the artist it portrayed.

Harry Parkes urinal Qing "Dyn.-shekwan L.7" Taipei Nat.Cent.Lib

The British ordered all the chamber pots destroyed but, according to Zhang Weichi in Guangdong Shekwan Potty(广东石湾陶器)1957, a remaining pot was discovered and put on exhibition in Guangdong Province. Zhang reports that people came from many counties surrounding to view the chamber pot.               

Recently, a gentlemen's tea party was held in Guangzhou at the home of Shekwan collector Gao Guopei ( 高佩 ) at which were displayed a pair of Harry Parkes winepots. A long handscroll recorded all the thoughts of the guests at the tea party.

"Harry Parkes " Pillow-Shekwan in early 1900's

  In the late 1970's the author discovered another original Harry Parkes chamber pot among the 100 piece Shekwan collection in the National Central Library in Taipei.

Recreation of Shekwan urinal. Face of Harry Parkes by potter John Bade 1976

In 1976 when the author was in Hawai'i and long before she had seen a genuine Harry Parkes Chamber Pot, the birthday of her father, Shekwan collector Olaf K. Skinsnes, occasioned an attempt to re-create the Harry Parkes Chamber Pot as it was reported but not described by Zhang Weichi. The final effort represented an attempt of the imagination. Initially horrified at seeing one of the original pieces she discovered that the hole was in the top hat, while in the contemporary attempt the hole was in the mouth.

The contemporary Harry Parkes Chamber Pot has spent ten years of its life in Guangzhou where it brought many a smile to people's faces. Much merriment has been had in Shekwan over this Shekwan imitation, and cross-cultural interaction linked to Harry parkes continues into the present.

Guangshen Collection 1982-Wine Pots

Fredrikke Scollard


 

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