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Chinese Porcelain

Ceramic things are made of clay. Quartz (Silicon dioxide: SiO2), mica and feldspar (aluminium silicates) are important components of clay. Ceramic things exist in China since the New Stone Age. The Yangshao culture and the Longshan culture had made ceramic table-ware. In this time, about 2000 BC, the table-ware had interesting pattern and forms. the table-ware of the Longshan cultur was black. Many table table-wares have three or four legs. In this time the firing temperature was about 1000 degrees. The Shang dynasty was a culture of the bronze age and at the beginning many things were made of bronze and not of clay. The bronze foundry made new forms which were later transferred to ceramic. The table-ware was already painted in this time. Ceramic was always important for the kings. In the Zhou dynasty there were already glazes and the were used. Some ceramics contained kaolin and this was the first step to porcelain. In this time and also before there was a custom to give dead people much things into their graves. It were table-ware, figures of man, little ceramic houses and ceramic animals. At the bottom there is a photo of a ceramic pot from the Tang dynasty (618 - 907). in the 7th century there was the first porcelain. Before the tang dynasty there was a glaze in China which was very liked, because the color was like the green color of Jade. This green glaze was not suitable for porcelain, but for ceramics. In this time ceramics with this green glaze were more disired than porcelain. Jade is used in China for a long time and so it is very important for the Chinese. Here it is important to say something about porcelain. Porcelain consist of kaolin, feldspar (aluminium silicates) and quartz (Silicon dioxide: SiO2). Porcelain sounds when it is fasten. Only two color can be put under the glaze and so before firing. These colors are blue and red. Blue is also known as cobalt blue or chemical it is cobalt aluminate (CoAl2O4). Red is copper oxide (Cu2O). The chemical materials which gave other colors decay in such high temperatures like 1400 degrees. So these colors can only be put on the glaze after the firing. To fix them a second firing of the porcelain is necessary, but the temperature is only about 800 degrees. The name kaolin came from a Chinese mountain called kaoling. The main component of kaolin is the mineral kaolinite (Al2O3 * 2SiO2 * H2O). In the Tang dynasty there were many new froms for figures, but most of the things were ceramics and not porcelain. In the Song dynasty (960 - 1279) many ceramic types originated. Since the Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368) porcelain became more important than ceramic in China. the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) is known for the blue-white paintings. Cobalt blue (Cobalt aluminate: CoAl2O4) was used here. it was put under the glaze. Above all plants, but also animals (also dragons) were painted. During the Ming dynasty the technics were refined. Since the Tang dynasty (618 - 907) Jingdezhen was the capital of porcelain. In the Ming dynasty many manufactures were built in Jingdezhen. Also Europe was a huge customer of Chinese porcelain. The Portuguese traded much with China in the 16th century and so much porcelain went to Portugal. A beautiful example for the blue-white paintings from the Ming dynasty is a photo of the bottom which shows a porcelain shell from the Wanli time (1573 - 1620). Red paintings also exist. Other colors had to be put on the glaze. Very good blue-white porcelain was made during the Qing dynasty in the Kangxi time (1662 - 1722). From this time there is also a photo of a porcelain vase at the bottom. The painting is a Chinese landscape. Porcelain ware with other colors also exist. During the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty there was a very special type of porcelain which is called "Blanc de Chine". It is with more feldspar and so it is much whiter. This porcelain was not painted, but non-painted figures were made of it. This porcelain is not from Jingdezhen, but it is from Dehua. A photo of one of these figures is also at the bottom. It is a figure from the 18th century. August the Strong, who was the king of Poland and the cure prince of Saxonia, also liked to collect Chinese porcelain. In the 17th century it succeeded to make porcelain at the yard of August the Strong. It was the first European porcelain. Short after that the famous porcelain manufacture Meissen was founded.

ceramic pot
ceramic pot, China, 7th century - 10th century, Tang dynasty (618 - 907)
porcelain shell
porcelain shell, China, end of the 16th century, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)

porcelain vase
porcelain vase, China, beginning of the 18th century, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

porcelain vase
porcelain vase, China, 2nd half 18th century, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

Blanc de Chine porcelain
Blanc de Chine porcelain (Goddess Guanyin), China, 18th century, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

Author and Webmaster: Lukas Czarnecki

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Last Update: 21.01.2006