The Yue Kiln acquired a great reputation due to its unique technique and exquisite design while the kiln flourished during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Five Dynasties period (907-960). Aristocrats in countries in Asia like Japan and Korea took the kiln's celadon as luxurious consumption. Historical records show that the celadon of the Yue Kiln was the first porcelain production shipped abroad in great quantities. Today’s scholars regard the Yue Kiln celadon as the pioneering product of Maritime Porcelain and Silk Road.
The main Yue Kiln first appeared in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The kilns in today's Huiji, Shanyin, Zhuji, Yuyao, Shanxian, Xiaoshan, and Shangyu counties, which belonged to the Yue Prefecture in the Tang Dynasty, are all part of the Yue Kiln, which is famous for its fine celadon products.
The Yue Kiln flourished during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Five Dynasties period (907-960), and the kiln's celadon was famous both near and far, occupying an important position in the development of Chinese pottery.
With the first phase of development falling during the Eastern Han (25-220) to the Sui dynasties (581-618), early Yue Kiln pottery was stylistically simple. By the time of the Tang Dynasty, pottery-making techniques had improved greatly, with the pottery industry also having developed to a far greater level. Archaeological evidence has proved that the Shanglinhu Yue Kiln started producing exquisite pottery tributes especially for emperors as early as late in the Tang Dynasty.
During the Five Dynasties and Ten States Period (902-960), official kilns were built in Shanglinhu (located in Shanglinhu of Cixi County, formerly of Yuyao County, East China's Zhejiang Province) and other places devoted strictly to producing pottery as tributes to imperial family members. Potters adopted advanced color-glazing techniques and decorated their wares with gold, silver and copper edges, including patterns of rare animals, fish, tortoises, flowers, grass, and human figures. Most pieces featured carving, inlays and other techniques.
The Shanglinhu Yue Kiln celadon acquired a great reputation due to its high quality and exquisite designs. Since the Tang Dynasty, such celadon has been sold to countries and regions such as Korea, Japan, and the Middle East via Mingzhou and Hangzhou cities in Zhejiang Province.
The Yue-Kiln Site at Shanglin Lake
The Yue-Kiln sites at Shanglin Lake are widely regarded as the origin of Chinese porcelain, as well as the centre for producing Yue-kiln celadon in the Tang and Song dynasties. The so far discovered 179 sites are distributed closely to each other with four lakes nearby. Yue Kiln was took its form in the eastern Han Dynasty, reaching its heyday in the late Tang Dynasty, the Five Dynasties, and the early northern Song Dynasty, declined in the late Song Dynasty, and were left out in the southern Song Dynasty. These kilns, where celadons were produced for a thousand years, witnessed the whole history of the Yue Kiln, and have long been known as ‘an outdoor museum of celadon'.
From the eastern Han Dynasty to the Sui Dynasty, celadon production was conducted on a small scale at Shanglin Lake, with only 20-odd kilns. The products at that moment mainly included jars, pots, drinking vessels, bowls, plates, cups, basins, and ink slabs. They had hard and crude roughcasts that contained grains of sand. Most had yellowish green glaze, while some had pale green, green, or brown glaze. Common patterns were: feathers, network, mat, window lattice, and double-line waves in the eastern Han and the Three Kingdoms Period; strings, slanted checkers, connected pearls, and brown dots in the western Jin Dynasty and eastern Jin; double-line lotus petals and brown dots in the southern dynasties.
In the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties, the number of kilns skyrocketed, as the porcelain industry boomed as it never had before. Porcelain-making techniques almost attained perfection in the period, especially in the late Tang Dynasty. A large number of exquisite, beautifully shaped products were made, including bowls, plates, cups, cases, lamps, pitchers, pots, pads, cups, spittoons, basins, incense burners, and ink slabs. They had fine, firm, and compact grayish white roughcasts. Most of them were evenly coated with greenish yellow, grayish green or green glaze that was as translucent as ice or jade. They had little decoration apart from small patterns of lotus, round flowers, fishes, birds, or dragons, or drawings in brown.
Porcelain production at Shanglin Lake was still thriving in the early northern Song Dynasty, when the popular decoration was carved patterns of vivid-looking plants, animals, or human figures. In the late northern Song Dynasty, however, it began to decline. Products made during this period show poor workmanship, with crude decorative patterns, lackluster glaze, and dwindling variety. In the early southern Song Dynasty, it experienced a brief revival as the court ordered ritual vessels and porcelain for daily use, until a government-run kiln was set up in Lin'an specializing in making porcelain for the court. After that the Yue Kiln seemed to have disappeared.
In the late Tang Dynasty, a kiln was set up at Shanglin Lake that produced a great deal of exquisite olive green porcelain for the imperial court. In the Five Dynasties, Yue Kiln continued to produce porcelain of the best quality in the world. Olive green porcelain was most widely used in the royal family and high officials' families in the kingdom of Wuyue and for burial in their tombs. After the northern Song Dynasty was founded, the kingdom was willing to spend as much as possible to appease the new empire. Records show that it had presented to the imperial court 170,000 porcelain articles, most of which were made of olive green Yue-Kiln porcelain. Archaeological finds show that the kilns at Shanglin Lake had produced this kind of porcelain for over two centuries, leaving a brilliant page on China's history of making porcelain