Antique Chinese Scroll Buying Guide

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Antique Chinese Scroll Buying Guide

With a history of more than two thousand years, the Chinese scroll is an important reflection of the country’s culture and a beautiful form of art in its own right. This buying guide will highlight the history of antique Chinese scrolls while noting some factors that can help you make an informed purchase. We will look at components of Chinese scrolls and the maintenance required. With proper care, there is no reason that you cannot enjoy your purchase of a Chinese scroll for a long time to come. The most important aspect in purchasing a scroll is finding one that connects to you.

This guide is here to offer up information about the history of Chinese scrolls, the different types of antique Chinese scrolls, factors to consider when purchasing an antique Chinese scrolls, and some tips on the care of an antique scroll. Once you have armed yourself with enough information, you will be able to start looking at Chinese scrolls with newfound insight and feeling more confident in your purchasing decisions.

History of Antique Chinese Scrolls

Dating more than two thousand years, Chinese scroll painting has historically held the dual purpose of relaying information and existing as artistic decoration. Originally, images were stencilled on to pieces of pottery. The art form grew with the development of Xuan, a form of paper, which led to the more text-oriented scrolls, of which we are familiar today. The Zhejiang region of China was where this form of art was born. Zhejiang is credited with the innovation of the first pictorial or narrative style scrolls.

Throughout the ages, Chinese scroll paintings has maintained two themes. One reflects the beauty of nature and the other bears inspirational messages or poetry. There are two distinct Chinese styles of painting - “gong-bi” and “shui-mo”. “Gong-bi” is a style that is meticulous in detail. This technique uses exact brush strokes to relay vividly, in rich colour, figurative subject matter. “Shui-mo” means watercolour and brush painting. This was, unlike the meticulous “gong-bi” style, a looser way of painting and is sometimes called the freehand style.

Discover Antique Chinese Scrolls

Chinese scrolls provide an interesting decor to any room. With a wealth of designs, there are images and narratives that will appeal to all tastes. Looking through a large collection of varied antique scrolls should arouse the interest of collectors. 

Parts of Chinese Antique Scrolls

Antique Chinese scrolls come in the form of paper, silk, or even bamboo, but they also occasionally come on other materials.

Part

Description

Xuan paper

Xuan paper is the raw material for most Chinese scrolls. Having great tensile strength and durability, as well as resistance to mould, this paper is fine textured enough to hold art works that have survived the test of time.

Bamboo sticks

Traditionally, Xuan paper is attached to bamboo sticks so that it can be rolled out. Bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants in the world, is deeply connected to Asian cultures and is the preferred material for Chinese scrolls.

Silk Ribbon

Often a ribbon is attached to the top of the scroll for aesthetic effect and also to allow the scroll to be tied up. Silk was first developed in China with samples of it found dating as far back as 3500 BC.

Types of Antique Chinese Scrolls

There are pieces you can buy on their own or series of scrolls that can be hung together.

Type

Description

Advantages

Considerations

Hall Paintings

 

A large Chinese Scroll often used as the centre piece of a room or hallway

If you have a lot of space on a wall or other open space, this size of scroll could work well

This variety of scroll takes a lot of available space to be properly displayed

Four Hanging Scrolls

Four narrow hanging scrolls that traditionally hung beside each other. The screens have a connected theme. 

When hung together in a series, the scrolls will create an interesting combined effect

Though it is recommended to hang the screens together, they can be hung alone. These scrolls are not narratives, but are connected by themes

Panoramic Screen

Several scrolls hung together that combine to tell a single narrative story. The scrolls do now have borders in between them

Effective when there is a lot of wall space to be taken up

These Chinese scrolls are not intended to be hung alone. They are intended to be put forward in a series

Couplet

Two vertical Chinese scrolls hung together. These scrolls bear Chinese words or poetry

These couplets often bear inspiration messages or words that reflect wealth, prosperity, luck and good health

Collectors who do not know Chinese may not be able to appreciate the beauty of such scrolls

Factors to Consider When Buying Chinese Scrolls

  • Buying a single or a series of Chinese Scrolls - Scrolls can be sold as singles or in a series. When considering your purchase, be aware of this so that you don’t miss out on other scrolls that would add to your piece. Also take into consideration the availability of space you have to display scrolls.
  • An original or a reproduction - Within the eBay search windows, there will be the opportunity to have some control of whether you will be purchasing a reproduction of an already existing Chinese scroll. If the aesthetic of the scroll is your primary motive, this isn’t as strong a concern. However, if you do want an original antique item, more research will be needed to ascertain authenticity.
  • Which materials do you want to buy - Some scrolls incorporate jade, bronze and copper. Be aware of these factors when considering a purchase. You can also use the eBay search methods to have different materials included, or not included, in your purchase.
  • Where does the scroll come from - Provenance refers to the origin or lineage of the antique that is being purchased. If the seller has information as to the item’s origin, and previous ownership, it could certify the item as antique and can help to officially date it. Though it is not central when purchasing an item as your main concern might just be the aesthetic of the item, proper documentation – if available - can help officially date and properly value your purchase.

How to Care for Antique Chinese Scrolls

The maintenance of Chinese scrolls has similarities to maintaining a traditional oil painting. 

  • Never handle a Chinese scroll on the painted side. Always transport it rolled up by the bamboo handles.
  • Never put an object on the painted side. This applies when the scroll is rolled up as well.
  • Never expose the scroll to extremes in temperature, or high or low humidity. A rule of thumb should be that the conditions that are comfortable for people will be suitable for the scroll.
  • Make sure the scroll is hung away from direct sunlight. Heat can affect the ink or paint used.
  • When hanging your scroll, bear in mind whether the location is a high traffic zone. Scrolls can easily be damaged if they are dislodged from their mounting spot or knocked into.

Finding Antique Chinese Scrolls on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique Chinese scroll you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on ‘Asian/Oriental Antiques’ then ‘Chinese Paintings/Scrolls’, and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching Antique Chinese Scrolls for on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique Chinese scrolls. For example, to find Chinese scrolls that are original, type 'Antique Chinese Scrolls Original' into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for Chinese scrolls with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique Chinese scroll you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion 

With a few suggestions from this buying guide in mind, the real test for the buyer is still to find something that appeals to them. The most pleasure you will get from a scroll is one that you personally have a connection with. Also, be aware of techniques to best preserve your purchase so that you can enjoy it now and in the future.

Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique Chinese scroll safely and securely on eBay.

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