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Dr Gerry Bodeker

On arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we visited the residence and office of Dr Gerry Bodeker, fellow of Green-Templeton College. Gerry researches and advises on international public policy on traditional, complementary & alternative medicine (TCAM). An Australian, he is senior clinical lecturer in public health in the University of Oxford Medical School and research associate at the Oxford Centre for International Development. You can learn more about his work at www.giftsofhealth.org.

Gerry and some of the books he has written

Gerry is not only passionate about Southeast Asia but embodies this passion. He moved to the heart of Kuala Lumpur and has built up a wonderful collection of Southeast Asian art. He was extremely happy to show this to us and talk about his deep and abiding love for the region.

Gerry and some of his extensive collection of engravings

Amongst his collection was a Ming Dynasty porcelain dish. Gerry bought it for $35 after spotting it gathering dust on the shelf in a small craftsman’s shop in Saigon. For a long time he assumed it was imitation, and was even told so by an expert on Ming Dynasty porcelain. However, back at Oxford, he met an expert of Vietnamese porcelain over dinner, who told him that due to counterfeiting, porcelain officially manufactured in Vietnam for the Ming Court was altered. Many experts on Chinese porcelain, not knowing this, thus assume the official products are imitation as well.

The dramatic story of the Vietnamese porcelain

“The chief way of telling,” said the expert on Vietnamese porcelain to Gerry, “is to look at the base. The official Vietnamese manufactures were ordered to be shipped with an unsealed base. The base thus appears red, because Vietnamese porcelain was made with the red clay from the banks of the Mekong.”

As Gerry spun his tale, we crept closer and listened with rapt attention, staring at the dish in Gerry’s hands.

“So,” said the expert to Gerry, “What is the colour of your dish’s base?

At this point, Gerry casually flipped the dish over in his hands, to reveal the reddish clay below.

The big reveal

After the tour of his collection, we went over to Kuala Lumpur’s most famous and iconic location, the Petronas Twin Towers.

 

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