Inside An Old Woman’s Cupboard No.5

Mud Men

Chinese Mud Men

For the first time,  I had to move some stuff to get the photograph of some of my favorite Mud Men.  There were footed china waste bowls and a starfish in front of these guys.  I don’t like set up photographs, but this one is…kind of.   To dispense with the “Teapot Period” pots, I’ll identify these and get on with my story about the Mud Men.  These are Royal Copenhagen porcelain teapots in the Half Lace design.  This is Scandinavian china made in Denmark forever, maybe a couple of centuries?  I dunno’.  It is made in Blue Fluted Full Lace, Blue Fluted Half Lace and Blue Fluted Plain.  I have a Full Lace teapot that I’ll show you sometime.  I am sure this pattern has been discontinued.  The new blue and white is ugly to me.

Now for the Mud Men.  Mr. Ping of the Hong Kong Fung Ping Shan Museum can give you an authentic history of the thousand-year-old tradition of mud figure making. A link to Mr. Ping and a short, readable summary are here:  Mr. Ping says…Most mud figures are manufactured in South China, in Kwangtung Province, in the town of Shekwan, which lies in one of the many waterways within the delta of the Pearl River…   I have been told that many of the mud men in the US were brought back to the States by soldiers returning from WWII.  They were pretty oddities, easy to carry, and made a delightful gift for a mother or a sister.  A little piece of that exotic place.  These figures used to be easy to find in old antiques shops and even in junk shops.  That is, until the “Trade” got wind of them.

I fell headfirst for the first Mud Man I ever saw.  I had no idea what he was, but I loved him.  He’s the one on the right holding a melon and carrying a staff.  I went on a quest for mud men for several years.  I found lots of them back then.  I even had my most precious ones displayed on a walnut filigreed Victorian shelf in the living room.  That is until they walked off the shelf onto the tile floor where I found them in pieces.  I was in the second shower that backed up to the guest shower that was being renovated.  I heard a loud banging on the shower wall.  The workman was breaking off old tile from the wall of the shower that backed up against the living room wall where the Mud Man shelf was hung.  By the time I came running down the hall wrapped in a towel with shampoo in my hair screaming, “STOP!  STOP!”, it was too late.  My Mud Men were gone.  I knew it before I looked.  There was nothing to be done.  When I saw the horror on that workman’s face, I told him they were just trinkets of no value.  It was okay, I said.  It was not okay.  But I had them for a time and I loved them.  They were just Mud Men, after all.

I gave the shelf to my Niece when she moved to Boston.

3 Comments on “Inside An Old Woman’s Cupboard No.5

  1. there’s a true poignancy about your telling of this–both the detailed history of the object d’arts themselves–and the details of their unfortunate return to dust. It was very gracious to absolve the man of any guilt–a glimpse into your heart. We’ve all been in his shoes. And we’ve all been in yours.


  2. There is a book title in this somewhere,…… “The Shelf Above, The Mud Men Below”. Physical objects become anchors that hold us by a chain of memories to moments, people, & places in our lives. The emotional value can not be measured on a scale or by a price scanner. Love the image and your account.


  3. Oh no, not the Mud Men!! How incredibly gracious of you in that moment. Well, at least you have your memory of them, and this story to tell (heartbreaking, though it is). I know how it is to be attached to something like the Mud Men. I know it was a tough loss.

    I’ll be looking forward to the teapot. 🙂



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