The Wonderful World of Ceramics
Ceramics, the general art of
heating common clay to create ornamental objects like pottery and porcelain,
which is derived from pottery. The history of Chinese ceramics dates back some
8,000 years with the crafting of hand-molded earthenware vessels.
primitive tribes began making artifacts with clay as early as 8,000 years ago.
The Yangshao Culture was noted for its distinctive pottery painted with flowers,
fish, animals, human faces and geometric designs. Although the origin of
porcelain techniques is unknown, it is believed that primitive porcelain ware
emerged in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the Yellow
River during the Shang and Zhou dynasties (16th century ¡¡ 221BC).
Real porcelain ware appeared during the Han Dynasty (206BC -
porcelain, together with black porcelain, was mainly produced during the Han
Dynasty and continued to
develop in the later dynasties. In the late Tang Dynasty (618-907), celadon
porcelain production techniques matured and were manufactured on a large scale.
The Tri-color pottery also reached its peak during this period. At the same
time, white porcelain, which appeared in the late Northern and Southern
Dynasties (386-589) and sounds like musical instruments when tapped, reached its
Celadon or qingci
industry of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the third most prosperous period of the
Chinese feudal society, reached an unprecedented height. Porcelain kilns with
vivid regional features had spread all over the country, forming the ¡°six kiln
factions¡± and ¡°five famous kilns¡±. The ¡°six kiln factions¡± were the ding kiln faction, jun kiln faction, yaozhou kiln faction, cizhou kiln faction, longquan kiln faction and jingdezhen kiln faction. The ¡°five
famous kilns¡± were the guan kiln, ru kiln, ge kiln, ding kiln and jun kiln.
The Yuan Dynasty
(1271-1368) saw a continued rapid development of the ceramic industry. Blue and
white porcelain, which emerged in the Tang and Song dynasties, reached its
maturity. The porcelain capital Jingdezhen emerged, which was famous for its
blue-and-white porcelain, red under-glazed porcelain and egg-white porcelain.
Great achievements were made in the production of the colorant glaze. Prior to
the Yuan Dynasty people had fewer color choices.
Chinese ceramic-making reached
its artistic peak during the latter part of the 15th century (Ming Dynasty,
1368-1644), largely due to the discovery of a new glazing technique called
"five-color porcelain". This new method stirred the imaginations of artists by
allowing them to use many different colors on porcelain after it had been baked.
Hence, more complicated pictures -- human figures, religious scenes and
landscapes -- began to replace earlier themes of flowers and fish on porcelain.
The early Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911) witnessed the peak of Chinese ceramic production, with all
ceramic types radiating their influence worldwide.
In the process
of ceramic development, different styles of different periods blossomed over the
Celadon, or qingci, of the Tang Dynasty, has a subtle, bluish-green
glaze and ischaracterized by simple and elegant shapes.
It was so popular that production continued at various kiln centers throughout
China well into the succeeding dynasties, and was shipped as far as
Egypt, Southeast Asia, Korea and
Tri-color Tang Pottery, or Tang Sancai, of the Tang Dynasty was
named after the bright yellow, green and white glazes that were applied to the
earthenware body. They not only appeared in such traditional forms as bowls and
vases, but also in the more exotic guises of camels and Central Asian travelers,
testifying to the cultural influence of the Silk Road.
first produced in the Yuan Dynasty, was baked at an extremely high temperature
and characterized by the purity of its kaolin clay body. It reached its golden
era in the Ming Dynasty, coming to represent the virtuosity of the Chinese
Five-color Porcelain of the
late Ming and early Qing dynasties was usually fully covered with colorful
patterns. Colors included red, yellow, light and dark green, brown, aubergine
and under-glazed blue. Actually, there were more than five colors.
ceramic art has long played an important role in foreign exchange. Pottery and
porcelain have been exported from early periods. During the Song Dynasty, large
quantities of porcelain were exported via the Silk Road.
After the birth
of New China in 1949, social stability led to the revival of the
ceramic industry, regaining its previous glory and
greater recognition both home and abroad.