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Early China porcelain trade

By Ceramic Design

Wares from the 16th century include Kraak porcelain, Yixing stonewares, Blanc-de-Chine, Blue and white porcelain, Famille verte, noire, jaune and rose, Chinese Imari, Armorial wares and Canton porcelain. Chinese export porcelain is generally decorative, but without the symbolic significance of wares produced for the home market. With the exception of the rare Huashi soft paste wares, Chinese porcelain is hard paste made using china clay and Chinese porcelain stone, baidunzi. While rim chips and hairline cracks are common, pieces tend not to stain. Chinese wares are usually thinner than Japanese and do not have the Japanese stilt marks.

Dutch 17th Century still- life painting by Jan Treck, showing late Ming Blue and white porcelain export bowls (1649).

In the 16th century, Portuguese traders began importing late Ming dynasty Blue and white porcelain porcelains to Europe, resulting in the growth of the Kraak porcelain trade (named after the Portuguese ships called carracks in which it was transported). In 1602 and 1604, two Portuguese carracks, the San Yago and Santa Catarina, were captured by the Dutch and their cargos, which included thousands of items of porcelain, were auctioned, igniting a European mania for porcelain. Buyers included the Kings of England and France. Many European nations then established trading companies in the Far East, the most important being the Dutch East India Company or VOC. The trade continued until the mid-17th century when civil wars caused by the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 disrupted suppliers and the European traders turned to Japan.

Export porcelain vase with European scene, Kangxi period.

As valuable and highly-prized possessions, pieces of Chinese export porcelain appeared in many seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. The illustration (right) shows a painting by Jan Treck that includes two Kraak-style bowls, probably late Ming, the one in the foreground being of a type called by the Dutch klapmuts. The blue pigment used by the artist has faded badly since the picture was painted.

Under the Kangxi reign (1662–1722) the Chinese porcelain industry at Jingdezhen was reorganised and the export trade was soon flourishing again. Chinese export porcelain from the late 17th century included Blue and white and Famille verte wares (and occasionally Famille noire and jaune). Wares included garnitures of vases, dishes, teawares, ewers, and other useful wares, figure models, animals and birds. Blanc-de-Chine porcelains and Yixing stonewares arrived in Europe giving inspiration to many of the European potters.

For the potters of Jingdezhen the manufacture of porcelain wares for the European export market presented new difficulties. Writing from the city in 1712 the French Jesuit missionary Père François Xavier d’Entrecolles records that “…the porcelain that is sent to Europe is made after new models that are often eccentric and difficult to reproduce; for the least defect they are refused by the merchants, and so they remain in the hands of the potters, who cannot sell them to the Chinese, for they do not like such pieces”.



Jian tea wares

By Ceramic Design

Jian blackwares, mainly comprising tea wares, were made at kilns located in Jianyang of Fujian province. They reached the peak of their popularity during the Song dynasty. The wares were made using locally-won, iron-rich clays and fired in an oxidising atmosphere at temperatures in the region of 1300 °C. The glaze was made using clay similar to that used for forming the body, except fluxed with wood-ash. At high temperatures the molten glaze separate to produce a pattern called hare’s fur. When Jian wares were set tilted for firing, drips run down the side, creating evidence of liquid glaze pooling.

Jian tea bowlSong Dynasty, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The hare’s fur Jian tea bowl illustrated in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was made during the Song dynasty (960 to 1279 AD) and exhibits the typical pooling, or thickening, of the glaze near the bottom. The hare’s fur patterning in the glaze of this bowl resulted from the random effect of phase separation during early cooling in the kiln and is unique to this bowl. This phase separation in the iron-rich glazes of Chinese blackwares was also used to produce the well-known oil-spot, teadust and partridge-feather glaze effects. No two bowls have identical patterning. The bowl also has a dark brown iron-foot which is typical of this style. It would have been fired, probably with several thousand other pieces, each in its own stackable saggar, in a single-firing in a large dragon kiln. One such kiln, built on the side of a steep hill, was almost 150 metres in length, though most Jian dragon kilns were fewer than 100 metres in length.

An 11th century resident of Fujian wrote:

Tea is of light colour and looks best in black cups. The cups made at Jianyang are bluish-black in colour, marked like the fur of a hare. Being of rather thick fabric they retain the heat, so that when once warmed through they cool very slowly, and they are additionally valued on this account. None of the cups produced at other places can rival these. Blue and white cups are not used by those who give tea-tasting parties.

At the time, tea was prepared by whisking powdered leaves that had been pressed into dried cakes together with hot water, (somewhat akin to matcha in Japanese Tea Ceremony). The water added to this powder produced a white froth that would stand out better against a dark bowl. Tastes in preparation changed during the Ming dynasty; the Hongwu Emperor himself preferred leaves to powdered cakes, and would accept only leaf tea as tribute from tea-producing regions. Leaf tea, in contrast to powdered tea, was prepared by steeping whole leaves in boiling water – a process that led to the invention of the teapot and subsequent popularity of Yixing wares over the dark tea bowls.

Jian tea wares of the Song dynasty were also greatly appreciated and copied in Japan, where they were known as tenmoku wares.



Qing Dynasty porcelain

By Ceramic Design

Primary source material on Qing Dynasty porcelain is available from both foreign residents and domestic authors. Two letters written by Père Francois Xavier d’Entrecolles, a Jesuit missionary and industrial spy who lived and worked in Jingdezhen in the early eighteenth century, described in detail manufacturing of porcelain in the city. In his first letter dated 1712, d’Entrecolles described the way in which pottery stones were crushed, refined and formed into little white bricks, known in Chinese as petuntse. He then went on to describe the refining of china clay kaolin along with the developmental stages of glazing and firing. He explained his motives:

Nothing but my curiosity could ever have prompted me to such researches, but it appears to me that a minute description of all that concerns this kind of work might, be useful in Europe.

In 1743, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, Tang Ying, the imperial supervisor in the city produced a memoir entitled “Twenty illustrations of the manufacture of porcelain.” Unfortunately, the original illustrations have been lost, but the text of the memoir is still accessible.



Beautiful Ceramic Fair Cup

By Ceramic Design

Drinkware Type: Mugs Material: Ceramic Ceramic Type: Clay
Certification: CE / EU Feature: Eco-Friendly Place of Origin: Jiangxi China (Mainland)
Model Number: RYR108 COLOR: blue and white
Packaging & Delivery
Packaging Detail: 10pcs into a box or carton. It must be packed carefully
Delivery Detail: 15-45days

Cup for drinking tea, milk, coffee
Good quality and cheap price
It is a eco-friendly product
We accept small order


Item No: RYR108

Material: fine ceramics

Size: 4.5 centimeters high, 10 centimeters diameter.

Place of origin: Jingdezhen China

Package: 10pcs into a box or carton. It must be packed carefully.


Ceramic Fair Cup, handmade by experienced artist.It has fine painter and best workmanship.

Use fair cup to drink tea is a joy, it can ensure the tea with same aroma,same color and same concentration.



Chinese Ceramics Part 1

By Ceramic Design


by Lihua Zhao

Ceramics – Pottery vs. Porcelain

Ceramics refers to making vessels, ornaments and other items from clay or china clay which is mixed with various materials, molded, shaped or spun on a wheel and then fired and sometimes painted or glazed.

Chinese ceramics can be divided into two parts: pottery and porcelain. Pottery involves using clay which is worked and fired. Porcelain is made using china clay which is also fired.

The difference between regular clay and china clay is that ordinary clay contains more than 3% iron in the mixture, is very viscous and rough, easy to mould and usually turns a familiar reddish dark brown when it is fired.

China clay, from which porcelain is made, on the other hand, consists of kaolin or china stone and contains less than 3% iron, is very soft and goes white and translucent when fired at high temperature.

There are other differences between the two materials. Clay is fired at between 700° and 1000° C. China clay is fired at temperatures above 1200°. Pottery tends to be more absorbent than china, which is why most fine tableware is usually china (porcelain) rather than pottery. Ordinary clay absorbs as much as 8% water, while porcelain tends to absorb 0-0.5%. Pottery is often left unglazed or is glazed at low temperatures using lead oxide. Porcelain takes a high temperature glaze, usually a lime alkaline glaze.

Also under the general heading of pottery is stoneware. It is a kind of pottery made from clay which is fired at higher temperatures and becomes very hard, like porcelain, so it is also known as hard pottery.

Grey ware,  Chou Dynasty, Chinese Pottery

Origins of Ceramics in China

According to current archaeological wisdom, good gray pottery appeared in China in the late Paleolithic period, over 11,700 years ago; Dawenkou eggshell black pottery is over 6,000 years old; Shang Dynasty white pottery goes back more than 4,000 years; Western Zhou Dynasty stoneware is more than 3,000 years old; then came Qin Dynasty terracotta warriors and horses at over 2000 years; the glazed pottery of the Han Dynasty dates to over 2,140 years ago; the color pottery of Tang Dynasty goes back more than 1,400 years; and pottery of the Song dynasty is over 1,000 years old.

Porcelain also has deep roots. In 1955 and 1965 in Zhengzhou, two fairly complete pieces of Shang Dynasty porcelain were unearthed, dating back to somewhere between the 15th and the 9th century B.C. These colored glazed pieces were of kaolin and are considered to mark the origins of Chinese porcelain. As porcelain production rapidly developed, the pottery industry tended to decline, with pottery becoming the “ugly sister” destined gradually to disappear in history. But some special varieties of pottery still have a unique charm: for example, the three color pottery of Song, from the Liao Dynasty; the purple sand teapot and colored glaze as well as the Guangdong Shiwan ceramics of Ming and Qing Dynasty. They were unique and have appreciated greatly in value.

Because China has such a long history of ceramics and there is so much to the subject, Part 1 of this series on Chinese ceramics concerns itself with pottery and Part 2 will deal with porcelain or china.

Pottery in China

Generally pottery is moulded from clay spun on a wheel. The finished pieces are fired at temperatures ranging from 900C-1050C. If the temperature is too high, the pottery will be burned or deformed. The loose texture of pottery makes it quite porous and highly absorbent. Usually pottery surfaces are unglazed, and even if a glaze is applied, it is at a low temperature.

Archeologists tend to assign the age of pottery by its color. Red pottery (it has the same red color of red bricks) is most common in primitive societies. The red color comes from firing in kilns with a supply of oxygen which combines with the iron in the clay.

Grey pottery is either grey or black in color. More modern kilns were able to control temperature and also reduce the oxygen in the kiln which, combining with the iron in the clay, resulted in the grey or black color of the clay. Grey pottery is the most common and it is generally rougher than the other colors.

Lung-ch'uan, Celadon Bowl, Sung Dynasty, Chinese potteryWhite pottery appeared in the late Neolithic period, the color caused mainly by reduced iron oxide content of the clay and the absence of other pigments.

Colored pottery is made by first painting the finished piece and then firing it. It then turns reddish brown, black, white and other colors.

Painted pottery, on the other hand, is fired first and then painted. The color tends to fade much more quickly.

Black pottery is made in the kiln. The process includes dense black smoke which is absorbed by the porous clay and turns it black. There is a special kind of black pottery known as “eggshell pottery” where the wall is as thin as an eggshell. It is very valuable and rare.

Glazed pottery has a layer of lime glaze, the main components of which are silica, alumina, calcium oxide and sodium oxide which is vitrified when melted.

Modern Chinese Pottery – Fine Art

For the longest time, pottery in China was regarded as a craft and its makers were considered artisans, not artists in the fine arts sense. The pottery was beautiful and it was useful. But it was not considered art and Chinese potters were not able to integrate into the modern art trends.

Chinese Pottery, Yao-chou Stoneware, Celadon GlazeThen in the latter part of the 20th century, the so-called modern art pottery emerged on the scene and the work began to be considered as a fine art and its practitioners graduated into being artists in the full sense of the word, participating in art exhibitions alongside sculpture and installations.

The Association of Chinese Artists Ceramic Arts Committee came into existence in the year 2000 which marked a major change in the traditional trends.

Yixing Pottery

Yixing, a city in Jiangsu province, has a history of pottery making extending back more than 5,000 years. In this time it has accumulated a significant tradition in the craft. Known as the “pottery capital of China,” Yixing has over 7,500 different kinds of ceramics, for example, purple sand fine pottery which is famous all over the world. The purple sand pottery of Yixing is unique and has won the reputation of being number one in the world for tea sets. Without the need for the addition of any pigments or chemical coloring, Yixing purple sand is suitable for molding and firing, is practical and functional and makes beautiful pottery.

Yixing powder sand clay comes in many colors, such as yellow, red, gray, blue, white and other colors, but because the purple is of a special purity, and particularly representative of Yixing pottery, it has come to be known collectively as purple sand.

Another well known type of pottery from Yixing is celadon ware which is known the world over for its cyan glaze. Jun-Tao, also called Jun glazed ware, is a traditional ceramic technology of Yixing dating back to the Ming Dynasty. It features a thick glaze layer with azure, sky blue and other colors. Not only is the color of the glaze beautiful but the artisans also carve flowers on the surface of the pottery as decoration, producing medium to large sized garden furnishings such as ceramic tables and chairs, dragon tanks, tanks, vases, basins, etc. both blue and copper. The beauty of Jun-Tao is in its colors, of which the blue glaze is the most valuable. The color of the glaze is gorgeous and the material is tough and resilient.

Another product of Yixing, Cai-Tao, also called multi-colored pottery or painted pottery, uses red iron ore and manganese oxide for the pigment. The potters paint various designs on the surface of the pottery, fire it at 900°–1050°C, and paint black, red, white and other colors on an orange-red base.

Jing-Tao, also from Yixing, called white dinner ware, is high quality pottery with very fine pores and a surface covered with a transparent, vitreous glaze which gives it a white or ivory look.

Official Recognition

Since the 1960s, the Chinese government, in order to support and promote the pottery craft and industry, not only offered evaluation and accreditation of artists and craftspeople but also established an honorary title of Master of Fine Arts and Crafts.

In 1993 this title was bestowed on famous Yixing potters such as Jiang Rong, Wang Yinxian and Xu Xiutang; Xu Hantang and Tan Quanhai gained the title in 1997; Gu Jingzhou in 1998; and Li Changhong and Zhou Guizhen in 2003. It is the highest honor which can be gained by a modern Chinese potter.

One of the most famous and successful contemporary Chinese potters is Gu Jingzhou, born in Yixing in 1915. His astounding work, including many purple pots, can be seen here:

Jiang Rong, Contemporary Pottery, ChinaJiang Rong, also called Lin Feng, was born in Yixing to a family of potters in 1919. Her name’s origin has a beautiful story because of her date of birth, the 10th of October in the Chinese calendar. That time of year is when the hibiscus blooms, so her parents called her Rong which is Chinese for hibiscus.

The whole family worked mainly with the purple sand pots. When Jiang Rong was 11 years old, she began to learn the craft from her parents. After ten years of hard work, with her artistic talent developing gradually all the time, she became a famous, young purple sand craftsman in her own right. Now Jiang Rong has been creating purple sand pottery for over 70 years. Each year from 1936 to 1998 she created new works. Beginning in 1958 she took up teaching students, including such famous names as Wang Yanxian, Gao Lijun and Bao Yuetu and others. She began with seven students, and in the second half of the same year she accepted Fan Yongliang, Pan Genxiang and others for a total of 50 students. There is a Chinese proverb, “The famous teacher leaves behind the outstanding disciple.” So all of her students have accomplished outstanding results with pottery. Jiang has many representative works such as a chufa pot, acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1991; a mango pot became part of the permanent collection of the Hong Kong Tea Cultural Relics Museum in 1991. Jiang Rong is a member of Chinese Arts and Crafts Institute, and her titles include Chinese Master of Fine Arts and Crafts and Professional Advisor of Yixing Purple Sand Culture Art Research.

Jiang Rong, Contemporary Pottery, Chinese

Pottery Center

Dingshuzhen, near Yixin at the southernmost tip of Jiangsu Province covers an area of 205 square kilometers and has a population of 220,000. The town is famous at home and abroad for its ceramics production and has a long tradition in the craft. With honorary titles of “Chinese Ceramic Art Township,”‘ “China Folk Art Township,” and “Jiangsu Province Township of Historical Interest,” Dingshuzhen is China’s and possibly the world’s largest ceramic production center.

Jiang Ganda, Yixing City’s Deputy Secretary for Dingshuzhen, announced the recognition of the Yixing Ceramic Industrial Park by the National Development and Reform Commission as the Economic and Technological Development Zone for the Province of Jiangsu. Dingshuzhen was to be regarded as the base for China’s ceramic industry where the country’s Senior Masters should gather, concentrating the production of the country’s 13 ceramic producing regions in one location which would attract buyers and tourists, both domestic and foreign, to buy ceramic products from famous masters. This is China’s Pottery Capital. The planning includes a total area of 667,000 square meters and a total investment of over 10 billion Yuan (about US$1.3 billion). It marks a new phase in the progress and expansion of Yixing’s ceramics industry and opens doors to new development and to enabling artists, technicians and the ceramics industry staff to prosper.

Chinese Pottery Today and Tomorrow

With the aesthetic diversity of people today, pottery has become a particular favorite, especially contemporary pottery based on the traditional forms and infused with modern creative direction and expression.

Pottery pieces are widely used indoors and in public areas, integrated with the environment to enhance the spaces and satisfy the aesthetic requirements of today’s society.

Gu Jingzhou, Contemporary Pottery, ChinaIn the last 20 years, middle-aged and young Chinese potters, through research of the modern architectural environment and of pottery from all over the world, found that there was a considerable gap between the pottery in China and the pottery in the rest of the world. This led to a deeper understanding of the spirit of Chinese traditional pottery and opened the door to further exploring and strengthening the national characteristics while also introducing the modern, decorative, environmental work.

In the future, pottery will continue to be an important industry to China’s economy and China is set up to become the world’s foremost pottery production center. The country has extensive resources in terms of talented artists and raw materials and also a tradition of thousands of years of developing the technology and art of pottery. The combination of this tradition and modern methods and ideas spell enormous potential for the future of pottery in China.