Chinese Porcelain History and Stories


It is estimated that the first examples of Chinese porcelain date back to about the year 4000 B.C. In contrast, the high-fired white ware ceramic style is linked with the Tang Dynasty and dates back to approximately about 500 B.C. Tzu is the name given to Chinese porcelain of the high-fired kind, whereas Tao is the name given to Chinese porcelain of the low-fired variety. The “Chinese taste” and the “Export” categories are the two primary divisions that can be found in the world of Chinese porcelain.

Porcelain with a Chinese flavour was the only style that was produced in significant quantities for the Asian market, and this style may be further subdivided into two types. The first kind is known as imperial kiln/ware or Guan yau, and as its name implies, it was created specifically for use by the families of the Chinese Emperors. During the Yuan era, the city of Jingdezhen became home to the world’s first kiln dedicated only to the production of porcelain for the use of the Chinese royal court. From that point on, all the way through the Ming and Qing dynasties, this distinct kiln was used to produce porcelain for the emperors and the houses who served them. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties, Jingdezhen developed into a centre for the production of porcelain for the Chinese imperial court. Today, the city still has a thriving porcelain industry.

The majority of the Chinese porcelain that is produced today is of the Min yao kind, also known as people’s ware or the other sort of Chinese flavour porcelain. It includes items for the home that have been crafted with the Asian way of living in mind. This form of porcelain has not seen a significant amount of evolutionary change throughout time.

Another characteristic that sets apart Chinese taste porcelain is what are known as the base markings. These marks can be seen on both Imperial china and People’s pottery. These identifying symbols appear seldom on the porcelain items destined for export. Not only do vintage pieces of porcelain manufactured in the Imperial kiln have base markings, but they also feature Period marks, commonly known as nian hao. With the use of these era markings, it is simple to determine the time period a certain piece of Chinese Imperial porcelain hails from. Porcelain items have these foundation markings painted on them by skilled artisans who have most likely devoted their whole careers to painting only one particular mark.

On the other hand, porcelain created in China specifically for export and usage in countries other than China is known as export porcelain. Porcelain for the Western markets, especially for Europe and the United States of America, porcelain for the Oriental markets, which is intended for the Near East and India, and porcelain for the Japanese market have also been established as distinct categories. Porcelain designated for export into any of these three groups is almost never marked with a base, in contrast to porcelain destined for South East Asia, which is almost always marked with a base.

The Dutch were the first to engage in commercial transactions with Chinese porcelain around the middle of the 17th century. Soon after, ancient pieces of Chinese porcelain that belonged to the Ming era saw particularly high demand and prices in Europe. This was especially true of the popularity of Chinese porcelain. In China, the era of the Ming dynasty was referred to as the Golden Era, and during this time, some of the best works of art were created. This parallels the Renaissance period in Europe. Near the end of the 18th century, exports of Chinese porcelain stretched throughout a vast swath of the world, including Portugal, Spain, England, France, Sweden, Germany, Norway, and other regions of Europe, in addition to other areas of Asia.

Due to the cultural exchange that was brought about by trade, the trade in porcelain took on the form of a near revolution in how it not only spread but also created new varieties and forms of exquisite porcelain from different parts of the world. This occurred as a result of the globalisation of the porcelain industry. Not only did porcelain from China gain a significant following in Europe, but it also motivated ceramicists from that continent to adopt aspects of Chinese design and combine them with their own. As a consequence of this, there was a substantial amount of artistic influence passed back and forth between East and West. Both styles of pottery were improved as a result of this interchange. The Chinese production and expertise had a significant influence on the European ceramic industry; yet, the Chinese ceramic world was also enhanced by the different art forms that were brought over by Europe as trade between the two continents developed. Despite the fact that Europe was able to make its own porcelain with a significant degree of success, Chinese porcelain remained to have an exceptionally high level of demand.

Trade in Chinese porcelain played a very significant part in popularising this business around the world; it created a higher associated value proposition, which in turn gave it the aura of exclusivity that is connected with it.

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