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Chinese Ceramics


        Pottery emerged in the prehistorically Neolithic period when human beings started to have settled life and use fire for living. The phenomenon that burnt mud or clay becomes harder enlightened people to make their daily utensils with mud and clay by firing.
        Pottery is ordinary clay with iron content higher than 3%. The temperature to bake is below 1000 degreed. It is with lower-temperature glaze or no glaze.
       Porcelain is porcelain stone and clay with iron content lower3%. The temperature to bake is over1200 degreed. It is with over-1200 high temperature glaze.

Two methods of pottery making

1.     Build up a vessel by winding up a clay cord.
        First to roll the wet mud or clay into a cord and wind up from bottom to top to shape the vessel, then to smoothen the surface by striking the built-up wall of the vessel with a bat and finally to fire it.

2.     Make a vessel with a wheel
        On the basis of the first method, a simple machine-pottery wheel was introduced. It is a round working table with a central hole on the axle. The potter put the pottery on the center of the table, then spins the wheel and repairs the piece with a tool or just by hand. The delicate black pottery stem-cup of the Dawenkou culture is a good example made by this method.


      The proto-porcelain made of porcelain stone and goling clay first appeared in China in the Shang dynasty. As its quality is not so satisfactory – a high water-absorptive and a thin glaze with many air bobbles, we call it proto-porcelain.


     Tangsancai ( Tang three colors),a common name for the polychrome glazed pottery of the Tang dynasty, was  made of white clay covered by a low-temperature glaze with mineral pigments of copper, iron, cobalt and manganese and fired in a temperature a bout 800-1000 degreed. Actually, it has more than three are the most popular ones. These kind pottery pieces like vase, pot, jar,plate,cup,bowl,apitton,pillow,satues of animals and human beings, models of architecture and furniture were all made for tomb burying. Its technological achievement is of great importance in world ceramics.

Five famous porcelain wares of the Song dynasty

1.     Ru Ware: An ash-gray body entirely covered by a finely crackled sky-blue glaze with”sesme-seed” spurs marks on the underside. The kiln sites has been found at Qingliangsi, Baofeng country,Henan province. It was produced in the Huizong reign(1101-1125), late Northern Song dynasty.

2.      Guan Wear a gray, black or yellow body covered by a crackled powder green, millet yellow or brownish yellow glaze. The Southern Song xiiuneisi and Jiaotanxia Guan wear kiln sites have been found at Fenghuangshan and Wuguishan in Hangzhou ,Zhejian province, but its Northern Song site has not been found yet.

3.     Ge Ware Mainly with a crackled grayish blue glaze. The crackle with both thick black ones and fine yellow ones is called iron wires with golden threads. This kiln site has been found.

4.     Ding Ware Mainly white wares, known as the ivory white, decorated with carved, incised, molded or engraved designs. The mouth rim of the wares has no glaze because its upside-down firing, but the high quality ones for the royal family have been covered by gold, silver or copper. The kiln site has been found in Quyang country, Hebei province.

5.     Jun Wear A pure moon-white or sky blue glaze, or a blue glaze with red or purple patches by iron and copper pigments in a reduction firing. The kiln site is located in Yu country, Henan province.


Major Ming and Qing porcelain wears

        Decorative design painted on the body before the glazing and high- temperature firing being executed. The surface of the piece is very smooth and the painting under glaze will never fade.

1.     Wu cai: Polychrome paintings in porcelain decoration. When it first appeared in the Xuande reign(1426a.d-1435a.d), the underglaze blue was used together with overglazed paintings. It was not until the Kangxi region (1662-1722) that the application of over glazed blue and black was introduced.

2.     Fencai : A kind of over glazed painting with enamels on an opaque glass-white ground which gives a three-dimensional effect. It is called faille rose in the west. The best ones were produced in the Yongzheng( 1723a.d-1735a.d)

3.     Falang cai Aprecious overglaze painting with imported enamels only for imperial porcelain. The painting was applied on the high-quality white porcelain from Jingdezhaen by artisans in a court workshop in Beijing.




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