META-MUSEUM: 格伦伊格尔斯 Gleneagles: Scottish or Chinese?

格伦伊格尔斯 Gleneagles: Scottish or Chinese?                         

                                                                                                Chinese Export Silver celebrating the game of golf in style

Chinese Export Silver has always been a wonderful medium to create trophies and golf trophies are no exception. With affluent international communities existing in Hong Kong, Canton, Shanghai and Tientsin in the 19th century, golf was one of the de rigeur sports to be played as well as acting as a very effective social statement.

 Golf, today, in China is hot news. With the affluent middle class growing at a phenomenal rate, golf and all its social implications is yet again seen as an affective status symbol to aspire to. The ultimate way for an affluent Chinese to show he or she has well and truly arrived in the world of golf is to make a trip to Scotland and play Gleneagles, St Andrews or Royal Troon. The Chinese are very much at home with golf.

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Here we have a typical Chinese Export Silver trophy by the Tientsin silversmith Feng Xiang. Tientsin, as with Shanghai and Canton, was a port with a sizeable international community, but the Tientsin silversmiths are somewhat different to their Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong counterparts in as much as they also made extensively for the affluent Chinese market as well as to the West.

Feng Xiang Detail

My extensive research into Chinese Export Silver has highlighted to me the importance of Tientsin as a silver manufacturing centre as important as Shanghai and Canton – a fact

My extensive research into Chinese Export Silver has highlighted to me the importance of Tientsin as a silver manufacturing centre as important as Shanghai and Canton – a fact that both Crosby Forbes and John Deveureux Kernan failed to recognise in their respective works in the 1960’s and 1985.

Gem Wo Trophy

The silver created in Tientsin can be likened to the work of the “Nine Factories” silversmiths in Shanghai, much of it dating back to the mid-19th century.

 The Tientsin Golf Club was popular in the 1920’s, with initiation fees of $50 and an annual $25 membership fee. The club had an 18 hole course “on the flat where Chinese graves constitute most of the hazards. Only a real enthusiast can obtain much of a thrill from the rather uninteresting course, but the fact that the luxury of two caddies may be enjoyed for 40 cents is a compensating feature”.

 Here [right] we have a rather delicious lidded cup by the Canton maker Gem Wo, circa 1860 having a profusely chased and embossed scene of warriors and attendants standing before pavilion buildings. The cup stands on bamboo culms issuing from a mound and weighs 660gm.

Today’s phenomenon of Chinese flocking to “the home of golf” in Scotland is not as strange as it may first seem.  Over 1000 years ago a game called Bu Da began in China that resembled what we recognise today as golf. This soon evolved into a more sophisticated game called Chiuwán, the earliest records of it being in 943AD.


Here we see the Tang Emperor Xuan Zong [685-762 AD] playing Chuiwan with his court


During Yuan dynasty, Ning Zhi wrote a book  Wan Jing [The Art of Chuiwan] in 1282 dealing with the game’s history, field, equipment, participants number and rules. From this book, we can see that it resembles modern golf emerged in Europe except some details such as one plays golf with two hands while in Chuiwan, one hand will do. From Wanjing, we can deduce the latest forming year of Chuiwan is in 1125 of the North Sung dynasty. At that time, even women and children played the game. Sung, Jin and Yuan dynasties all saw the robust development of this game. From emperor to the lower classes, everyone indulged in it.

Ladies Chuiwan

Left, we see three female players attended by two servants shouldering their sticks. The sroll painting is entitled “Beautiful Women Playing Chuiwan” and is by Du Jin [1465-1487].

 It is generally believed the term golf derives from the Middle Dutch colf and that the Scots added the all important additive – the hole and was recorded for the first time in an act of the Scottish Parliament in 1457 that banned the game.

The earliest rules of modern golf were specified in 1754 in Scotland while the rules of Chuiwan were settled in 1282 in China


Right, we have an ornate large tumbler by Wang Hing that bearsWang Hing Goblet the inscription “Penang Golf Club, 1907”

Hung Chong Trophy

Pictured left: A trophy  by Hung Chong of Canton and Shanghai bearing the inscription “Hungjao Golf Club, Shanghai, Captain’s Cup March 1932, F. Thoroughgood. Presented by Mr R G MacDonald”.

While below we have a superb Chinese Export Silver lidded trophy, circa 1910, by the Shanghai-based silversmith Zee Sung. The handles are modelled as a pheonix [fènghuáng] emanating from prunus branches and lid topped by a glorious bud finial. The bowl is decorated in low relief against a finely planished background, featuring a pheonix amidst a foliate melange.

The Fenghuang is a mythological bird that is believed toZee Sung Lidded Cup reign over all other birds and said to be made up of the beak of a rooster, face of a swallow, forehead of a fowl, neck of a snake, breast of a goose, back of a tortoise, hind quarters of a stag and tail of a fish!

 The Scots, Dutch, Chinese and even the ancient Egyptians all lay claim to founding the game we know as golf. Perhaps the truth will also remain in the realms of mythology! I sit here in Scotland writing about Chinese Export Silver – the home of golf; or is it?!!!!




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