Collection has fun and donation also has fun
Interview with Mr. Qiu Gongding, a Chinese American collector
Written and photo’d by Zhou Mo
A round table filled with a dazzling array of antique collection, including porcelain, pottery cans, wood carvings, seals, snuff bottles in addition to calligraphy and paintings hung on the wall, a total of more than 30 pieces of the antiques, condensing collector’s painstaking efforts, were donated by Mr. Qiu Gongding to the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. Of course, this is not the first time for him to donate his antique collection to the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. On Christmas Eve 2017, the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation staff carefully identified these donated pieces of antiques one by one and packed and bound them at Mr. Qiu's home in the west district of Shanghai. And the author also had the opportunity to have an interview with Mr. Qiu Gongding, the Chinese-American collector, about the collection.
☐ Part of the donated collection.
☐ Buddha outlined in gold, mahogany inlaid ivory.
The shirt collar beneath the rice white sweater is well ironed and the gray hair is neatly combed. Although Mr. Qiu Gongding has been advanced in age, the spirit is hale and hearty, the idea is clear, he speaks the Shanghai dialect with Suzhou accent slowly but very loud, which may be related to his poor hearing. The old gentleman occasionally reminded others to speak louder, or simply asked them to sit next to him......
Learn to be an honest person first while venturing outside
Mr. Qiu was born in Suzhou in 1932, and his family moved to Hong Kong in 1948, and immigrated to the United States in the early 1960s. Mr. Qiu has long been committed to Sino-US textile trade, helping to export China's textile to the United States, while importing the U.S. products to China, and he has long been acting as the largest U.S. trading company in China to make textile trade. In 1980 after the end of China's "Cultural Revolution", Mr. Qiu led the U.S. trade delegation to China, which, he said, might be the first U.S. textile trade delegation since the reform and opening-up. Now he is old, all his business affairs has been left to his son to take care of.
Mr. Qiu often mentioned his father, and his speech was full of respect to his father. He told the author that his father graduated from St. John's University with a very good academic record and the headmaster rewarded him with a gold watch when he graduated, which is very rare. Qiu said that his father's splendid Life had big impact on himself. For a long time after 1945, his father was almost in seclusion, did not go out, however by 1948, he had become chairman of several pharmaceutical factories, Cotton mills and companies in Shanghai and Hangzhou. In addition to industry, he also did trade, and his soybeans exports at that time was at the first place in China...... Speaking of his father, impressed him most and incredible was that doing business had never signed any contract, all relied on verbal commitment. Qiu specially used "A Phrase", Shanghai people often said, to emphasize this point. "My father's generation values honesty, if going back on one’s words, how to mix up outside?" My father had never bought a foreign stock in his life, and all his assets were invested in Chinese textile and other enterprises, hoping to revitalize China's industry. "It is clear that Mr. Qiu’s career has been in the wind for decades, thanks in large part to his father's “Business Sense”.
Mr. Qiu told me that although he was Chinese American, he never showed off that he was American in front of others. At that time, many people in Hong Kong looked down upon China, and whenever a friend invited him to dinner, he would say, "I am from the mainland of China" Like many overseas Chinese, Mr. Qiu has always wanted China to be strong.
Form ties of affection with the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation
If his father had a great influence on Mr. Qiu's career, then it is his younger sister who promoted Mr. Qiu form ties of affection with the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation.
Mr. Qiu told me that his younger sister and Mr. Lu Ping, the former director of the Hong Kong-Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, were good friends and often contacted in the 1990s. He was introduced by his sister to know Lu Ping, and they often had meals and talked together. He said, "In the past, the Chinese people always suffered much from dealing with foreigners, and foreigners say what is what, it’s because China is not strong!" Lu Ping is very capable and intelligent that I can see from his negotiations with foreigners. I admire him very much.”
Mr. Qiu said, his sister is warm-hearted, willing to help others, does not like to make public while doing good things. She was also familiar with the painter Chen Yifei, when Chen Yifei was not yet famous. His younger sister was very appreciative of Chen Yifei’s paintings and willing to help him. When she went to Taiwan, she invited him to go with her. She invited her friends in Taiwan to dinners and solemnly introduced Chen Yifei to her friends. “My sister has a good eye for people. She had a piece of painting of Chen Yifei’s, and later gave it to her nominally adopted daughter.”
After stepping down from the position of director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, Lu Ping served as chairman of the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. His younger sister asked Mr. Qiu try to have the opportunity to visit the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. When Mr. Qiu returned to Shanghai that year, he took time to go to the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. He said, "I see a lot of young people seriously do public welfare work, very cute." "Soong Ching Ling's concept of public welfare and the inheritance of the young generation touched him deeply, which promotes Mr. Qiu form ties of affection with public welfare undertakings. He donated his antique collection to the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation, through auctions to raise money to help those in need. Mr. Qiu said, “There are still many poor areas in China, and there are some regions that have not changed a lot since decades ago” Some children in mountainous areas have to go a long way to school or even have no way. Each of us has responsibility to care more about those children. But private organizations have limited financial resources, and the government should play a bigger role in medical treatment and education.
☐ Cultural colored pottery jar at Horse Home kiln in New Stone
☐ Recollections of the past
Collection must have a good mentality
Mr. Qiu liked collecting antiques when he was less than 30 years old. "I am very ordinary, I do not have any extravagant hopes, collecting antiques is purely fun, and it is good for me."
Mr. Qiu told me that his grandfather liked collecting antiques, and he remembered that there had been a great collections of antiques at home in the mainland of China, and during the Cultural Revolution more than 100 pieces of antiques were taken away by the Red Guards. After the Cultural Revolution, I was told that the taken-away collections would be returned to my family. I went to see the number of the collections were right, but they were not the original things. Mr. Qiu still has a vivid memory of the past episode.
Mr. Qiu says he has always been interested in Chinese culture, so the collections are mostly Chinese or related to China. The most favorite art work he likes is called k’o-ssu, and he has kept more than 20 pieces of k’o-ssu in his family in the United States. The k’o-ssu is a kind of handicraft, a type of weaving done by the tapestry method in fine silks with gold thread. The k’o-ssu, unique in China, first produced in the Song Dynasty, was used to make robes in the dynasties and copy valuable paintings and palace decorations, therefore it has a good reputation of "the thing of the divine in woven fabric" and "carved silk". Mr. Qiu told me with regrets: "Tapestry production process is very complex, an artist must spend an extremely long time to complete a piece of art work, I do not know whether this technology can be passed on, so the tapestry is increasingly scarce." Talking about the anecdotes of collection, Mr. Qiu recalled that in the 1960s, there was a group of Buddha figures in Hong Kong and he bought all of them. "I am not a Buddhist, but the Buddha figures are part of Chinese culture. There was a time when my house was full of statues of Buddha, and I also had a relationship with the Buddha.”
Mr. Qiu's collection covers a wide range, on the walls of Qiu’s Shanghai apartment hang several glass paintings inlaid in the picture frames, the color is bright, and the adornment is interesting and rich. Mr. Qiu said that the glass paintings were popular in Europe and America, during the reign of Qianlong emperor in the Qing Dynasty, Italian painter Giuseppe Castiglione introduced this kind of paintings into China. Afterwards, many Chinese folk-custom glass paintings were exported to Europe and America, and the 19th century Chinese glass paintings are still very popular with foreigners now. Mr. Qiu also has a lot of ivory carving by Chinese and Japanese in his home in the United States. Mentioning the Japanese ivory carving art, Mr. Qiu was full of praise and he said, "Japanese ivory carving art is very high, the lines are vivid, which is relevant with Japanese respect for the artists." China's current art is too commercial, some artists think of themselves as plasterers, seeking instant success and quick profits, which affects the artistic quality. Now there is international ban on ivory trade and circulation, and I cannot bring those ivory carvings back to China.”
It is because Mr. Qiu mainly collects antiques from overseas auctions, his collection is mostly kept in his American home. In recent years, every time he returned to China, he brought some back, accumulating to a certain amount and he donated them to the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. "It doesn't matter how much it's worth, it's all my heart." I just hope that the price of the auction is higher than the price I bought, so that I can help more children who need help.”
☐ Green Glaze Bottle
☐ a glass painting hung at Mr. Qiu’s home
Mr. Qiu says he is reckless, but at auction he is more rational. The auction house is the most delighted because the bidding is so competitive. Speaking of the small auction in California two years ago, Mr. Qiu said he went there with his wife. I had my eye on a Chinese Qing Dynasty bowl, my wife was worried about my impulsion when I participated in the auction. Then I said that I’m up to pay only 10,000 dollars, the result was someone else bought it away at price of 20,000 dollars. A few days ago in an auction catalogue of Beijing, I saw the bowl that is as high as 20 million yuan. But my mentality is very good, the United States auction is also not complete true, all by personal vision. I usually have 60% certainty to bid.
Mr. Qiu said that although he is old, but he has been insisting on learning. "A person must often use brain, I have to see a lot of things on my ipad every day. Learning is also a sport." Mr. Qiu said while opening the ipad on the couch, his fingers were skillfully sliding on the screen with the collection of Japanese kimono, ivory carving, Chinese porcelain, jade ... appearing one by one, as if enumerating his family treasures with pleasure. A chicken cylinder cup on the screen makes his eyes bright, and the chicken cylinder cup is particularly noticeable in recent years by a Shanghai collector who has scrambled it to sky-high price." It was bought at an auction in the United States, and it was like thousands of dollars," he said. The bottom stamp is Cheng Hua, but in fact all the time until the Qing Dynasty all the chicken cylinder cups used the same bottom stamp, so it is difficult to distinguish between true and false. I do not really study the collecting things, only enjoy the process. The collection has fun, the donation also has fun, I only want to do some good deeds." said Mr. Qiu.
☐ A Chinese-staff-shaped vase with double dragons
☐ 18th century China teapot exported to Europe and America, donated to SSCLF
☐ A chicken cylinder cup kept at home in America