Category: Antiques

Sungka – Filipino Mancala Game

Sungka Board, photo by JMorton

Sungka – Filipino Mancala Game

I used to be obsessed with this board game when I was a little girl.

For whatever reason my mother used to discourage us playing sungka.  She was really adamant that we should not play it.  I think I heard her say that it was a game of the dead or something.  She made it sound like there was something sinister about it.

But I’ve  always  had a mind of my own, and the more I was told ‘NO’ the more I had to do it; it was like a red rag to a bull to me, a fascination of the forbidden. 🙂  I was a tad naughty!  LOL

Probably that was the reason I loved playing sungka.   I used to ask a neighbour, Lagring, who was a year or two younger than me to play sungka.   We did not bother with the wooden board; at my instigation we would just dig little holes similar to those in the wooden board on the ground under our mango tree.  We would then gather little stones and away we play for what seems like hours.  🙂

My mother always knew what I was up to as I would come home with dirty hands and even dirtier finger nails.  And of course those little holes which suddenly appeared all over our backyard!  🙂

In the end, knowing that I would not really listen, she just gave up on her embargo against sungka.  Funnily enough as soon as the ban was lifted I moved on to another obsession, Jack’s Stone!  🙂

By the way the photo above was taken at late president Ferdinand Marcos childhood residence in Batac, Ilocos Norte.  It seemed President Marcos used to play sungka as well.  🙂

Click here to see a quick tutorial.

I actually want one for Christmas, thank goodness they are easily available here.

Kakiemon Elephant

Kakiemon Elephant

This Kakiemon elephant is on display at the British Museum.

This is apparently made between 1660-1690 in the Kakiemon style.  Kakiemon is the first to create the enamel porcelain.  What is interesting about this sculpture is that the artist has never seen an elephant.

You might have noticed that the elephant trunk in the photo is pointing downward.  There is a superstition in the east that pointing downward is for good luck.  In the west, it is the opposite.  It should be upward.  Another case of east and west not meeting.  LOL

What do we know about elephants?

  • Their gestation period is 22 months, 2 months short of 2 years pregnancy.  Ouch
  • Their life span is between 50 – 70 years but their was a recorded one of 82 years of age.
  • There are two types of elephants:

Asian (Indian) Elephants which smaller in stature, smaller ears and only the male have tusks.

African Elephants are larger with larger ears.  Both male and female have tusks.  They are               also  less hairy than the Asian elephants.

 

 

 

Agbayo (Life Size Mortar & Pestle)

Life size mortar and pestle, photo by JMorton

Agbayo (Life Size Mortar & Pestle)

The above photo was taken in Ferdinand Marcos’s Batac ancestral house.  It was used when he was obviously younger as the mortar shows sign of erosion or depreciation.

Having lived in a farming community when I was a young girl, this life-size mortar and pestle is a familiar sight.

It was used in many things that needed pulping like my favourite sweet rice dessert called nilupak or dehusking palay, especially when going to a rice mill is a bit of a hustle.

The term used by Ilocanos, people of Northern Luzon, is agbayo, which means to pound.

Rice comes from palay grains, and if you only wanted a chupa or a ganta of rice, most Ilocanos would probably use a pestle and mortar to pound the palay to dehusk and turn into rice which then ready to cook.

Pounding rice is sometimes more than just a chore.  It can be a way of bonding with friends and family.

I used to help my cousins when they were pounding in the mortar.  Usually there are extra pestles around and two or three people can pound together but take turn.  It is a matter of timing.  It was a lot of fun though can be hard work.  Having someone to help makes this arduous repetitive task less of a chore.

A Touch of Ming

Ming Vase

A Touch of Ming

During a recent visit to Victoria and Albert museum, Peter and I were surprised by this rather interactive art appreciation exercise.

Visitors are allowed to touch a huge Ming vase, see above photo.

It said in a note beside it, written in English as well as in Braille, that visitors are allowed to touch it. It was not inside a glass case.

At first Peter and I can’t believe it.  Despite the clear note, we looked around if anyone was looking; we had to make sure that the coast was clear.   We felt that it was rather naughty to touch an antique work of art.  We would have been good candidate for experiment or candid camera, to see our reaction.

The above Ming porcelain vase was an original 1550 antique.

Ming antiques are very much wanted by the rich and famous.  I have often heard that a really rare Ming can set you up for life!

But can you imagine, if we broke the vase, we had to sell up our house to pay for the damage!

I reckon the vase was once broken into several pieces, thus not as valuable or sought after by the moneyed people, ergo hoi polloi are allowed a quick fondle with the Ming!  🙂

 

Snuff Box Head @ V&A

Mask, by PH Morton

Snuff Box Head @ V&A

This is another treasure from the V&A exhibits.

You would not have guessed it that it is a snuff box, a container for ground tobacco.

The lovely intricate design makes it a collectible.  This particular item was made in Chelsea by an unknown artist between 1760-1765.

Masks

 

Masks, photo by PH Morton

Masks

#1 Noh Mask

#2 Zo-Onna Mask

#3 Hannya Mask, represents a female demon

#4 Hanakobu Akujo

#5 Uba

These masks can be currently and readily admired at the V&A Museum, East Asian gallery.

Masks are used for protection, disguise, performance and entertainment.

The above masks were Japanese and were sculpted from wood.  They were based from the 14th century classical Japanese theatre called Noh which was much loved and patronised by the Shogun, supreme military leader.

Snuff Bottle – Qing Dynasty

Snuff Bottle, V&A Museum, photo by JMorton

Snuff Bottle – Qing Dynasty

The above object caught my attention immediately, not only because it was exquisitely beautiful but I remember I have a similar one at home, which Peter got me as a gift a couple of years ago.

I thought it was a perfume bottle.  It was only during a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum two days ago that I learnt it was a snuff bottle, which was used during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

Smoking a tobacco was prohibited during the Qing Dynasty, therefore nicotine loving Chinese and Mongolian people had resorted to sniffing powdered tobacco contained in snuff bottles.  Inhaling finely ground tobacco was allowed as consumption was deemed medicinal at that time.

The snuff bottles were constructed as tactile as possible as they are carried by hand replacing the snuff boxes favoured by Europeans.  There were really beautiful, work of art, snuff bottles as they were a symbol of your position, how high up you were in society.  Sharing a snuff during the 16th century China was a form of greetings.

Wonderful to learn new things.  I now know that my ‘perfume bottle’ is actually a snuff bottle.  Where is the tobacco?!!! 🙂

Lady of Lupari

Lady of Lupari @ V&A, Photo by PH Morton

Lady of Lupari @ V&A, Photo by PH Morton

The above bust was of a lady from the Lupari family, a prominent family in Bologna during the 1460s.

The bust is made from terracotta and the sculptor was Alfonso Lombardi.

What is a bust?

A bust is a sculpted or cast representation of a human upper body, from the chest to the neck up to the head.  The bust is often sat on a plinth to keep it secure.  A bust can be made from marbles, wood, metal, or terracotta.

An aust is an equivalent to a sculpted head of mythical beings and animals.

Under Lock & Key (to Safety)

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Old keys, Photo by JMorton

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Key, Photo by JMorton

Under Lock & Key (to Safety)

We have a really lovely sideboard, in which I’ve stored all my chinas: plates, my lazy Susan, cups and saucers, my special dinner wares.  I thought because they are for special occasion, I should store them under lock and key.  Well, that was the idea.  The problem now is that they are so safe, I can’t get to them, no one can get to them.  The key won’t unlock the cupboard anymore.

I don’t really want to force open the sideboard because it is an antique, really beautiful; I don’t want to damage it.  It has been with Peter’s family, before I was even born and that was a very long time ago. eeckk 🙂

Anyway with this problem in mind, I got to thinking (as one does) how keys and locks have evolved.

I know that in ancient time, people would bury or leave their valuables in special places such as caves, under a tree, by the riverbank, or obvious landmarks, etc. (Actually, our canine does this. He would bury his dog bones for later use. 🙂 )

The Egyptians and the Chinese used complicated wooden bolts as early as 2000BC.

And then of course  Europe started using wooden chests to hide their valuables.  The wooden chest graduated into a strong box, and then to the use of safe.

It was Linus Yale, Junior,  an American, who developed a lock based on the early Egyptian principle of pin tumblers, the kind of lock that we still use today.

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I think, like me, Benjamin Franklin had a problem with  one of his keys and it had become rather redundant as it would not opened the furniture it was supposed to unlock.  Ergo he used that key to conduct his now famous experiment of attaching a key to a kite, which he flew during a thunderstorm.  The key was electrified, thus he invented the lightning conductor.

Keys are also used as a coming of age gift.  When my son turned 13, under much pomp and ceremony, he got his first set of house keys, which he promptly lost.   🙁

Apparently ancient Rome used to have this tradition of giving the keys for the household to new brides.

 

Balance (Weighing) Scale

Kilogram, photo by Arnold Gamboa

Old weighing scale, photo by Arnold Gamboa

Balance (Weighing) Scale

I just about remember this contraption. This was the scale used before digital came along. It was rather fiddly to use, ergo, some genius scientist had to invent something simpler and easier machine to use. But having said that this old scale at least challenges your motor neurone much more, which can only be a good thing.

To use this scale you need to balance the item inside the measuring plate on the left with the corresponding metal mini bell.  A bell could weigh, a pound, 2 pounds, 3 pounds, etc.

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