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 having been invented during the Neolithic era, and the carrier of culture and aesthetic values.

Chinese ceramics
Lotus Shape Secret Color Porcelain or Mi Se Ci Bowl of the Five Dynasties (907 — 960)

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 glaze, or apply the low-temperature glaze.

Sancai Pottery Plate of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907)

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. 

 

Porcelains' surfaces would apply glaze and are translucent, smooth, delicate, and exquisite.

Coral Red Glazed Porcelain Vase With Peony Patterns of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912)

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

 

Monochrome Pottery

During the Neolithic period, people started using clay and fire to produce ancient potteries 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)

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)

White Pottery Horse of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Zhaoling Museum

Painted Pottery

 

Painted Potteries have beautiful drawings on the surface, and are mainly 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 can last for a very long time without falling off. 

Cai Tao Painted Pottery Pot of the Majiayao Culture (around 3300 BC — 2100 BC)

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 the most famous Caihui Tao pottery figurines in China.  

Glazed Pottery

 

Potteries that applied glaze technics, usually low-temperature lead glaze, are the Glazed Potteries.  

 

Because lead is poisonous, Glazed Potteries had been used as funerary wares.

Green Glazed Pottery Well of the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD)

Green Glazed Pottery Well of the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) — Shandong Museum

Sancai

 

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 important 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)

Sancai Pottery Horse of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

 

Celadon Since the Shang Dynasty.

 

Celadon is believed 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 and chemicals of the glazes, and temperatures of the kilns, all can influence the colors of Celadon. 

 

However, the most 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)

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 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 a special and noteworthy type. 

 

They are believed the most exquisite Celadon wares from the best kiln of the Tang (618 — 907) and Five Dynasties (907 — 960), which were produced only for the royals. 

 

Their glazes are crystal clear and mild like beautiful lakes, classic and gentle as poetic mountains, and their glazing technics had been highly confidential. 

 

With the fall of kingdoms during the Five Dynasties, Secret Color Porcelain also disappeared. 

 

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

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 Glazed Celadon Writing-brush Washer of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644)

Rose Purple Glaze Writing-brush Washer of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Capital Museum

 

White Porcelain Since the Sui Dynasty.

 

During the Sui (589 — 619) and Tang (589 — 619) Dynasties, when Celadon wares were flourishing in the south, White Porcelain had been produced and rapidly popularized in the north.

 

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, the use of kaolinite which contains little iron elements, and transparent glaze are key factors. 

White Porcelain Bowl of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907)

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 had been invented to apply to White Porcelain wares, and soon became an important branch. 

Bluish-white Glaze Cup and Holder of the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279)

Bluish-white Glaze Cup and Holder of the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) — Harvard Art Museums

Then, during the reign of 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 of the reign of Yongle Emperor (1360 — 1424)

Sweet White Glaze Jar Produced During  the Reign of Yongle Emperor — Palace Museum