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Chinese Ceramics earthenware production

Chinese Pottery China has one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations—despite invasions and occasional foreign rule. A country as vast as China with so long-lasting a civilization has a complex social and visual history, within which pottery and porcelain play a major role.

The function and status of ceramics in China varied from dynasty to dynasty, so they may be utilitarian, burial, trade-collectors', or even ritual objects, according to their quality and the era in which they were made. The ceramics fall into three broad types—earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain—for vessels, architectural items such as roof tiles, and modeled objects and figures. In addition, there was an important group of sculptures made for religious use, the majority of which were produced in earthenware.The earliest ceramics were fired to earthenware temperatures, but as early as the fifteenth century B.C., high-temperature stonewares were being made with glazed surfaces. During the Six Dynasties period (AD 265-589), kilns in north China were producing high-fired ceramics of good quality. Whitewares produced in Hebei and Henan provinces from the seventh to the tenth centuries evolved into the highly prized porcelains of the Song dynasty (AD. 960-1279), long regarded as one of the high points in the history of China's ceramic industry. The tradition of religious sculpture extends over most historical periods but is less clearly delineated than that of stonewares or porcelains, for it embraces the old custom of earthenware burial ceramics with later religious images and architectural ornament. Ceramic products also include lead-glazed tomb models of the Han dynasty, three-color lead-glazed vessels and figures of the Tang dynasty, and Ming three-color temple ornaments, in which the motifs were outlined in a raised trail of slip- as well as the many burial ceramics produced in imitation of vessels made in materials of higher intrinsic value.Trade between the West and the settled and prosperous

Chinese dynasties introduced new forms and different technologies. One of the most far-reaching examples is the impact of the fine ninth-century AD. Chinese porcelain wares imported into the Arab world. So admired were these pieces that they encouraged the development of earthenware made in imitation of porcelain and instigated research into the method of their manufacture. From the Middle East the Chinese acquired a blue pigment—a purified form of cobalt oxide unobtainable at that time in China—that contained only a low level of manganese. Cobalt ores found in China have a high manganese content, which produces a more muted blue-gray color. In the seventeenth century, the trading activities of the Dutch East India Company resulted in vast quantities of decorated Chinese porcelain being brought to Europe, which stimulated and influenced the work of a wide variety of wares, notably Delft. The Chinese themselves adapted many specific vessel forms from the West, such as bottles with long spouts, and designed a range of decorative patterns especially for the European market.Just as painted designs on Greek pots may seem today to be purely decorative, whereas in fact they were carefully and precisely worked out so that at the time, their meaning was clear, so it is with Chinese pots. To twentieth-century eyes,

 Chinese pottery may appear merely decorative, yet to the Chinese the form of each object and its adornment had meaning and significance. The dragon represented the emperor, and the phoenix, the empress; the pomegranate indicated fertility, and a pair of fish, happiness; mandarin ducks stood for wedded bliss; the pine tree, peach, and crane are emblems of long life; and fish leaping from waves indicated success in the civil service examinations. Only when European decorative themes were introduced did these meanings become obscured or even lost.From early times pots were used in both religious and secular contexts. The imperial court commissioned work and in the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1279-1368) an imperial ceramic factory was established at Jingdezhen. Pots played an important part in some religious ceremonies. Long and often lyrical descriptions of the different types of ware exist that assist in classifying pots, although these sometimes confuse an already large and complicated picture.Paragraph 

Pottery, porcelain and ceramics are three easily confused terms to describe the earthenware production in China. 


Pottery can be any object made from porous clay and baked at a temperature ranging from hot, direct sunlight to baking, or firing, in a kiln at a temperature of about 1,000 degrees Celsius. It is usually neither hard nor stable. In order to produce ideal results, before firing, pigments or colors were supposed to be applied to pottery. After firing, it can also be painted with almost any colors.
Porcelain, on the other hand, is made from a mixture of special clays, often kaolin, which is made from decomposed crystals of granite, and fired at a very high temperature of 1,350 degree Celsius, at which kaolin becomes white. It is hard and much more durable than pottery. After firing, porcelain  can be painted in a rainbow of colors and glazed, and then fired at a low temperature to seal the color and harden the glaze. Even the word “china” is often used to describe fine Chinese porcelain.


 Ceramics is actually the general art of heating common clay to create an ornamental object. All pottery and porcelain are considered ceramics.
As early as 8,000 years ago, Chinese tribes were making artifacts with clay. The “Yangshao” Culture was noted for its distinctive pottery painted with flowers, fish, animals, human faces and geometric designs. Around 3500 B.C. the “Lungshanoid” Culture was making white pottery and eggshell –thin black pottery.


Nobody quite knows when porcelain techniques were invented. We believe that porcelain was first made during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-22A.D). The oldest existing porcelain that has been found is thought to date back to the 7th century. This porcelain is knows as White Ding. The discovered artifacts are ivory-colored and make a clear sound when they are struck, which has led some historians to conclude that they really dated from the middle of the 9th century.


Du Fu, a famous Chinese poet from the Tang Dynasty, praised the fine porcelain cups and jugs of his time. His findings indicated that early Chinese porcelain was unglazed and covered in pictures of flowers and fish. Porcelain styles clearly changed during the 10th century with the arrival of Indian Buddhism. The porcelain produced in the Song Dynasty (960-1280) is described as “blue as the sky, bright as a mirror, fragile as paper and sonorous as a plaque of jade- stone”. The oldest pieces of porcelain found on the market today originate from this period. But they are exceptionally rear, extremely expensive, and can not be taken out of the country. Chinese porcelain making has a rich and varied history. There was a beautiful cracked porcelain style of the Song and Yuan dynasties. It was probablyduring the Yuan Dynasty that “blue and white” porcelain made its first appearance. This porcelain had blue decorations on a white background.


It was made of kaolin clay and mixed with as type of cobalt blue imported from overseas. Chinese porcelain making did not reach its artistic peak until the latter part of the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This was largely
dueto the discovery of a new glazing technique that allowed the artists to use lots of different color on the object after it had been baked. The new development was called “the five colored porcelain” method, but the number of colors used was not necessarily five. Another invention was mono-colored porcelain in ferrous red, black or dark blue. 


 The birth of color during the Ming Dynasty fired the imaginations of future artists. During the reign of Emperor Kang Xi in the early Qing Dynasty, porcelain makers started to paint more complicated pictures on their wares: human figures, religious scenes and landscapes begun to replace the earlier scenes of flowers and fish.
Although the vases or bowls usually founding antique shops are mainly from this period, the history of Chinese porcelain does not end with the Qing Dynasty. The porcelain made after 1911 never quite rekindled past glories. By the end of the 18th century making had already started to decline, although there is some marvelous 18th century rose, eggshell and porcelain on the market.


Most porcelain objects like vases and bowls are usually moulded by hand rather than by wheel. They are left to dry in the air, glazed and finally fired. In the porcelain business this process is known as single firing and oven is called “the grand tea”. The capitals of pottery and porcelain have been Yixing in Jiangsu Province and Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province respectively. From these two capitals, pottery and porcelain has been exported from very early times. During the Song Dynasty, large quantities of porcelain were exported via the Silk Road.


The Arab believed that blue and white porcelain would turn black if poisonous food were served on it. Nowadays, the Yuan-Ming cobalt blue and white style is popular everywhere in the world and has become the most favorite porcelain in more homes than any other styles ever created by potters of Chinese history.

Earthenware and ceramics were produced by the human race as long as it exists. The oldest examples of Chinese ceramics serve, as in the other parts of the world, to identify the different cultures. Depictings of human beings especially came up during the Warring States period 戰國 and were very popular under the Qin 秦 and Han 漢 dynasties that created whole armies of clay statues. Tomb offering clay figurines serve as important archeological objects to reproduce architecture and clothing of ancient China. From the Jin Dynasty 晉 on, vessels and objects are glazed, mostly with yellow, green and brown colors (produced by ferrous oxides, ferric oxides, lead and vegetable charcoal combined with soda-lime). Typical for Tang Dynasty 唐 ceramics are the three colors (sancai 三彩) white of the vessel itself, therfore called whiteware, dark green and brownish yellow. Song Dynasty 宋 ceramics are only one-colored, either with a soft green or glazed white. But during this period, porcelain develops as an important ceramic product, and the taste of colors also changes to the worldwide known typical blue-white ceramic chinaware, which fully developed during the Yuan Dynasty 元.
Clay was not only the raw material for vessels either daily use vessels or art objects, but also the ground material for
statues of deities in Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist temples.
Historical periods: [
Qin-Han pottery][Jin pottery][Tang pottery][Song pottery] 
 

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