Chinese Porcelain and Pottery — Ceramics Made by the Art of Earth and Fire
Chinese ceramics include historical pottery and exquisite porcelain, which perfectly and harmoniously connect daily wares with splendid art.
They are the art of earth and fire, the witness of Chinese history and development since being invented during the Neolithic era, and the carrier of culture and aesthetic values.
All Photos On This Page Are From Museum Photographer Dongmaiying.
Secret Color Porcelain or Mi Se Ci Bowl of the Five Dynasties (907 — 960) — Suzhou Museum
Definition and Difference of Chinese Ceramics, Pottery, and Porcelain.
Chinese Ceramics, also named Tao Ci, include Pottery (Tao) and Porcelain (Ci).
Chinese Pottery originated first during the Neolithic era; made of clay, heating temperature between 800 and 1,100 °C (1,500 and 2,000 °F), highly absorbent and air permeable, and with a lower degree of solidity.
Potteries' surfaces are opaque and can go without or apply the low-temperature glaze.
Sancai Pottery Plate of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Chinese Porcelain appeared a few thousand years later, during the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC); made of kaolinite, heating temperature between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F), nonabsorbent and with a higher degree of solidity.
Porcelain surfaces would apply glaze and are translucent, smooth, delicate, and exquisite.
Coral Red Glazed Porcelain Vase With Peony Patterns of the Yongzheng Period (1723 — 1736) — Palace Museum
Chinese Pottery Since the Neolithic Era — Monochrome Pottery, Painted Pottery, Glazed Pottery, and Sancai
During the Neolithic period, people started using clay and fire to produce ancient pottery with different colors by controlling kilns' air, temperature, and smoke.
Red Pottery (or Terracotta), Gray Pottery, and Black Pottery were typical ceramics during this era.
Egg Shell Black Pottery Goblet of Longshan Culture (around 2500 BC — 2000 BC) — National Museum of China
Meanwhile, kaolinite was used to make White Pottery, which is neat and solid.
White Pottery Horse of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Zhaoling Museum
Painted Potteries have beautiful drawings on the surface and are divided into two types based on producing technics.
One is named Cai Tao, which has the colors and pictures drawn on pottery tires first, then put into kilns to fire.
That way, the fused patterns, and pictures would be part of the pottery and could last a long time without falling off.
Cai Tao Painted Pottery Pot of the Majiayao Culture (around 3300 BC — 2100 BC) — Qinghai Museum
The other is named Caihui Tao, which has the colors and pictures drawn on pottery after they have been fired and taken out of the kilns.
Those paintings that are applied afterward are easier to fall off, like the fallen colors on Terracotta Soldiers, one of China's most famous Caihui Tao pottery figurines.
Potteries that apply glaze technics, usually low-temperature lead glaze, are the Glazed Potteries.
Because lead is poisonous, Glazed Potteries have been used as funerary wares.
Green Glazed Pottery Well of the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) — Shandong Museum
Sancai is a type of low-temperature lead Glazed Pottery that thrived during the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), whose glaze colors usually include yellow, green, white, brown, blue, black, and others.
As necessary funerary wares, Sancai figures represent all aspects of the prosperous Tang Empire and hold great cultural, historical, and aesthetic values.
Sancai Pottery Horse of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Celadon Since the Shang Dynasty.
Celadon is believed to be the earliest ancestor of Chinese Porcelain. The Proto Celadon originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), and the real Celadon appeared during the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD).
It is a type of porcelain that applies glaze with iron oxide and then fires in a reducing kiln at high temperatures.
Different thicknesses, chemicals of the glazes, and kilns' temperatures can influence Celadon's colors.
However, the favorite colors of Celadon in China are jade greens because of the highly valued Jade Culture.
Celadon Compact of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907 — 979) — Lin'an Museum
Celadon porcelains are translucent and bright as ice, delicate and smooth as jade.
The production and aesthetic value of Celadons reached their peak during the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279).
Azure Glaze Celadon Censer of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 — 1127) — Henan Antique Archaeology Institute
Secret Color Porcelain
Secret Color Porcelain, or Mi Se Ci, is unique and noteworthy.
Their glazes are crystal clear and mild like beautiful lakes, classic and gentle as poetic mountains, and their glazing technics had been highly confidential.
Secret Color Porcelain also disappeared with the fall of kingdoms during the Five Dynasties.
Since then, these mysterious wares have been only recorded and praised in ancient poems and articles until 14 Secret Color Porcelain wares of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) were unearthed from the underground palace of Famen Temple.
Secret Color Porcelain or Mi Se Ci Plate of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) Unearthed from Famen Temple — National Museum of China
Fancy Color Glaze of Jun Ware
Jun Ware refers to Celadon porcelains produced in Jun Kiln popularized since the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) with fancy colors and beautiful textures, through changing chemicals and applying technics of the glazes, and controlling fire temperature.
Rose Purple Glaze Writing-brush Washer of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Capital Museum
White Porcelain Since the Sui Dynasty.
The elegant and unadorned white wares originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 — 220) and became mature and industrialized in the Sui Dynasty.
To make pure and flawless White Porcelain, kaolinite contains little iron elements, and the transparent glaze is the key.
White Porcelain Bowl of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Yangzhou Museum
Later in Song Dynasty (960 — 1279), production of all types of ceramics reached an advanced level, and so was White Porcelain.
Meanwhile, the bluish-white glaze was invented to apply to White Porcelain wares, soon becoming an important branch.
Bluish-white Glaze Cup and Holder of the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) — Harvard Art Museums
Then, during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (1360 — 1424), Sweet White Glaze (Tianbai You) was invented.
The color of Sweet White Glaze porcelains is not pure white, and their smooth texture looks like rich milk and sweet sugar.
Sweet White Glaze Jar Produced During the Reign of Yongle Emperor — Palace Museum
Blue and White Porcelain Since the Yuan Dynasty — Exceptional Underglaze Art
Originating in Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), later fully formed and flourishing since the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368), Blue and White Porcelain or Qinghua Ci has been one of the most popular ceramic genres.
Evolved out of White Porcelain, the Blue and White Porcelain has beautiful blue paintings under transparent glazes.
Though blue is the only color to draw and decorate, its changes in thickness and layers and use of chemicals, as well as exquisite patterns and paintings, provide great aesthetic values for those blue and white wares.
Since then, more beautiful and sophisticated pictures have been imprinted on delicate and translucent porcelains, from auspicious patterns to eminent paintings.
Based on the underglaze manufacturing technology, other pigments were added to paint on porcelains and formed two popular types: the Underglaze Red and Blue and White Underglaze Red.
Underglaze Red Porcelain
Underglaze Red was also invented in the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368), using copper oxide to draw before applying transparent glaze, producing white porcelain with red paintings.
Underglaze Red Porcelain Jar of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368) with Dragon Patterns — Wuzhong Museum
Blue and White Underglaze Red
Blue and White Underglaze Red porcelain uses blue and red pigments to paint, then applies transparent glaze and fire.
The manufacturing procedure is more complicated and meticulous and has very strict and high requirements for modeling, painting, glazing, and firing skills.
Blue and White Underglaze Red Yuhuchun Vase With Peach Patterns of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — National Museum of China
Colorful Underglaze and Overglaze — Doucai, Wucai, Porcelain Enamel, and Famille Rose Porcelain.
Since the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644), porcelain art has entered another golden chapter. Besides traditional ceramics, applying underglaze and overglaze to produce porcelains with colorful paintings has been a new trend.
To produce Doucai ware, artisans first need to use blue pigments to paint outlines and part of the whole painting before applying transparent glaze and firing in a high-temperature kiln, the same as technics of Blue and White Porcelain.
Afterward, use other pigments to complete the colorful painting and fire it in a low-temperature kiln.
Doucai Porcelain Jar Produced During Chenghua Emperor's Reign (1465 — 1487) With Lotus Patterns — Palace Museum
It applies the overglaze technology, which paints colorful pictures on already glazed and fired white porcelains, before firing for the second time in a low-temperature kiln.
Wucai Porcelain Water-dropper of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka
Famille Rose — Falangcai and Fencai
During the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1654 — 1722), Famille Rose porcelains were invented in the imperial palace.
Famille Rose is a type of overglaze enamel porcelain.
To produce a beautiful Famille Rose ware, artisans would apply a layer of enamel on White Porcelain at the bottom to draw colorful paintings and write characters, then fire it in a low-temperature kiln.
Famille Rose Porcelain Cup Produced During Kangxi Period With Plum Blossom Patterns — Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Falangcai porcelains were invented and had been exclusively provided for the royals of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912).
Paintings and written characters of Falangcai were all designed in the imperial palace and approved by the emperors.
Therefore, Falangcai porcelains are fancy and luxurious and represent the highest ceramics manufactural technics of the Qing Dynasty and different emperors' aesthetic tastes.
Fencai porcelains, however, were civilians' Famille Rose wares of the Qing Empire, which are pastel, gentle, elegant, and simple.
Design Arts of Chinese Potteries and Porcelains.
Decoration of Shaped Clay
After forming ceramics shapes, different types of decorative technics would be used to beautify the clay body, mainly the monochrome glazed ceramics, such as impressing, carving, engraving, incising, and modeling patterns.
Applique on Sancai Pottery of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Shenzhen Wangye Museum
Meanwhile, adding other clay statues and applique to the main shaped clay body are two other typical crafts to present more exquisite pictures or to form complicated shapes.
Doucai Porcelain Pot of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) with Exquisite Peach Shaped Models — Shanghai Museum
Ceramics Glaze for Fancy and Bright Colors
Different chemicals have been used to color ceramics, from color pottery to greenish Celadon, white porcelain, and other color glaze porcelain.
Besides radiant and rich colors, ceramic glazes ensure the wares are smooth, rugged, and waterproof.
Underglaze and Overglaze for Patterns and Paintings
Underglaze and Overglaze are two main methods to draw exquisite patterns and paintings on ceramics.
Underglaze is the method that draws pictures on the formed clay bodies before applying a layer of transparent glaze and then firing in the kiln, like the Blue and White Porcelain.
Overglaze is the method that draws colorful paintings on glazed and fired porcelains, then fires in another kiln with a relatively low temperature, like Famille Rose Porcelain.
Overglaze Famille Rose Vase Produced During Yongzheng Emperor's Reign (1722 — 1735) — National Museum of China
Famous Ceramic Kilns in China.
Throughout history, some famous ceramic kilns have produced eminent pottery and porcelains, representing brilliant aesthetics and exceptional artistic values.
The most famous kilns produce many types of ceramics, both for imperials and civilians. However, they all have one or more specialties.
Ancient Celadon — Yue Ware
Yue Wares produced in Yue Kiln represent the highest manufacturer level and the best artistic value of the golden Tang Dynasty Celadons.
Secret Color Yue Ware Plate of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Famen Temple Museum
Imperial Celadon of Emperor Huizong of Song — Ru Ware
Ru Ware or Ru Kiln refers to porcelains produced for Emperor Huizong of Song (1082 — 1135), with bluish colors like the clear blue sky after the rain.
As a great artist, the emperor's exceptional taste provided Ru Wares with great aesthetic values.
As a horrible and unlucky monarch, the emperor buried his prosperous empire and the Ru Kiln.
Therefore, existing Ru Wares of the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) are pretty legendary for their limited numbers and exceptional aesthetic values.
Flower Shaped Warming Ru Ware Bowl of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 — 1127) — Henan Antique Archaeology Institute
Imperial Celadon of the Song Dynasty — Guan Ware
It was the imperial kiln constructed during or after the reign of Emperor Huizong of Song, which is famous for its bluish Celadon with artistic ice crackle.
Guan Ware Bowl of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) — Tokyo National Museum
Celadon with Gold Thread and Iron Wire — Ge Ware
Ge Wares originated during the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) and are famous for their artsy ice crackle on the surface.
The crackle of Ge Ware has two types, the iron color crackle and the thinner golden thread.
They intertwine on extraordinarily smooth and delicate surfaces of Ge Wares that are mainly pale blue, moon white, and greenish-yellow.
Ge Ware Plate of the Song Dynasty — Palace Museum
Greenish Celadon — Longquan Ware
Longquan Ware Yuhuchun Vase of the Ming Dynasty — Capital Museum
Colorful Porcelain — Jun Ware
Their textures are stunningly beautiful, smooth as flowing clouds, bright as sunset glow, luminous as shining stars, and splendid as delicate flowers.
Jun Ware Goblet of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — British Museum
White Porcelain with Brilliant Decoration — Ding Ware
Ding Ware originated in Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) and flourished in Song Dynasty (960 — 1279); it was an eminent kiln famous for its White Porcelain, which was usually incised, engraved, molded, impressed, or carved with exquisite, uncolored decoration.
Exquisite Peacock and Peony Patterns Imprints on Ding Ware Plate of the Song Dynasty — Taipei Palace Museum
Greenish Celadon with Splendid Carving Decoration — Yaozhou Ware
Yaozhou Ware Bowl of the Song Dynasty With Carved Water Wave and Fish Patterns — National Museum of China
Brush Painting and Calligraphy on White Glaze — Cizhou Ware
Cizhou Wares are white porcelain with black and brown paintings or calligraphy characters, a kiln that produced ceramics for civilians since the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279).
Cizhou Ware Pillow of the Song Dynasty Decorated With Poem and Patterns — The Western Han Nanyuewang Museum
Chinese Porcelain Capital Since Yuan Dynasty — Jingdezhen
From no later than the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD), exquisite Celadon and later white porcelains had been manufactured in this city.
In the year 1004, Emperor Zhao Heng awarded his reign title "Jingde" as the new name of this city for its jade-like and high-quality ceramics.
Jingdezhen Porcelain Bowl of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) — Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guangdong
During Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368), exceptional Blue and White Porcelain was produced in Jingdezhen and rapidly became one of the most popular ceramics in China, which made Jingdezhen the porcelain production center with the highest porcelain manufacturer technologies.
Meanwhile, all types of Chinese ceramics could also be manufactured there, with the best quality and exceptional aesthetic values.
All Photos On This Page Are From Museum Photographer Dongmaiying.
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