Chinese Ceramics

The History of Chinese ceramics shows a continuous development since pre-dynastic times and this pottery is one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally.  There are two primary categories of Chinese ceramics, low-temperature-fired pottery or táo (陶, about 950–1200 ℃) and high-temperature-fired porcelain or (瓷, about 1250–1400 ℃).  Chinese ceramics range from construction materials such as bricks and tiles, to hand-made pottery vessels fired in bonfires or kilns, to the sophisticated Chinese porcelain wares made for the imperial court and for export to the West. Porcelain is so identified with China that it is still called “china” in everyday English language usage.

The Blue and white porcelain that is still highly desired and valuable today was first mass produced under the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) yet Potters of the successive Ming dynasty (1368–1644) perfected these blue and white wares so that they soon came to represent the virtuosity of the Chinese potter.  Although the styles of decorative motif and vessel shape changed with the ascension to the throne of each new Ming emperor, it can be said that the quality of Ming blue and whites are indisputably superior to that of any other time period.

This tradition of manufacture and exportation within ceramics continued into the Qing Dynasty (17th Century AD to 20th century AD), with visitors commenting on the industry and technique that was behind the production of such high-quality ceramics and pottery.  This continued up to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and the following political fluctuations in the history of 20th century meant that ceramic production decreased a little. Now, though, it can be seen presently that there has been a revival in the production of pottery and an upsurge of interest in the old techniques and skills used to create such delicate and beautiful pieces of art.

The sophistication of these early Chinese potters is best exemplified by the legion of terracotta warriors found in the tomb of the First Qin Emperor (r. 221–210 BC).