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Xing Kiln

As one of the most famous kilns in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Xing Kiln 邢窑 was best known for its production of white porcelain. It was recorded that the kiln's was located in Neiqiu of North China's Hebei Province, which belonged to the Xing Prefecture during the Tang Dynasty, hence its name. The products of the Xing Kiln were on the list of tributes to the Imperial Courts.

Contemporary written records of that time show that "white porcelain from Xing Kiln is as white as silver and snow." Xing porcelain was known for its delicate and pure texture as well as its extreme hardness. Even today, when the ware is struck, it gives out a metallic sound.

xing kiln was one of the earliest production site for white wares in Northern China.  Xing kiln started production during the late Northern Dynasty period.  It reached peak production during the Mid Tang period and declined from the late Tang period.  During the Tang Dynasty, it produced the best white wares with elegant form and snow/silver white glaze but there were also large amount of poorer quality white wares to cater to the demand of the common folks.   Since the Shang period, porcelains produced were essentially greenwares.  The popularity of  Northern China white glazed wares during the Tang Dynasty  established the following porcelain production trend: green glazed wares of the South and white wares of Northern China (南青北白). 

The production of white glaze ware is a very important milestone in the history of Chinese Ceramics.  White is the ideal colour background for the drawing of motifs on porcelains.  The success of the Cizhou iron brown/black motifs and subsequent blue and white would not be possible without the invention of white glaze porcelain.

Location of Xing kilns

It has now been established that Xing kilns were located in present day Lincheng (临城), Neiqiu (内丘) and Xingtai (邢台).  Chinese archaeologists had tried to locate the Xing kilns for many years.  The first breakthrough only materialised in 1980.  Xing snow white-like sherds were finally found in Qicun (祁村) in Lincheng county (临城).   From 1982 to 1985 more than 20 kiln sites that produced Xing white wares  were discovered in Neiqiu county (内丘), Lincheng and Xingtai.

From 1988 to 1992, the Xingyao archaeological team excavated 3 kiln sites, one in Neiqiu and two in Lincheng.  Numerous artifacts from the Sui to Jin period were discovered.  It provided  enormous help in the dating of Xing wares from different phases of production.

Archaeological excavations revealed that Xing kilns in Xingtai, Neiqiu and Lincheng initially produced some green wares during the late Northern Dynasty period.  During this period, the potting is thick and the paste has coarse grains and greyish yellow in tone.  The glaze is greenish or yellowish green in tone. 

During the Sui period, besides greenwares, white wares were produced.  The white wares consisted of those which coarse and fine.  The coarse type has greyish white paste cover with a layer of white slip before glazing. The fine one has more fine grained and more whitish paste.  Hence, there is no need to add a layer of white slip.  

Xing ware was a significant export porcelain from Mid Tang to 5 Dynasty period.  Xing, together with Yue and Changsha wares were exported through the overland silk road and the maritime trade route to Asia and beyond.  Sherds of Xing, Yue and Changsha wares were excavated from ancient sites as the far as Iraq and Egypt.

Some Xing white wares were also found in the Belitung shipwreck which carried mainly Changhsa wares and also some Yue greenwares, Ding and Gongxian white /blue and white wares.   The Belitung shipwreck is dated to A.D. 826 based on a Changsha bowl with a date of 2nd year of Baoli.  There were also some vessels with white/green glaze.  Some of the bowls have the incised Ying mark.   According to some Chinese experts who have examined some of the items, at least some of them were very likely  products of Xing kiln.

The Xing Porcelain was also exported to many countries in the Tang Dynasty. Today, the Xing Porcelain has been sometimes excavated in the foreign areas such as the Middle East and North Africa.

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