Chinese Pottery

Last Update: 2008-10-7 4:14:00; By orchid

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Chinese Pottery
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TOPGeneral Information

The history of ceramic manufacturing is very long, starting seven or eight thousand years ago in the Neolithic Age by our ancestors who started the craft of making and using pottery. Porcelain is a significant invention from ancient China. People made primitive porcelain early in the Shang Dynasty, and real porcelain was first made in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Porcelain manufacturing in China gradually developed from the Wei, Jin and North and South Dynasties to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Ceramic is one of the three greatest specialties from the Western Han Dynasty that has become internationally known. The town of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province is China’s "Porcelain Capital" in China.

Pottery is made by cooking clay. After humans learned how to start a fire and use it to cook, they tried many different methods to cook hunted animals and vegetation, and then store the remaining food and water. After a long period of attempts, humans finally learned to make pottery by cooking clay mixed with water.

Pottery is the process of cooking, forming, and drying clay or a mixture of clay, feldspar and quartz. Ceramics represent the artistic features of the cooking and forming techniques, as well as the color of the glaze and its decorative features.

Pottery is the oldest handicraft in China. As early as the Neolithic Age, roughly styled and artless grey, red, white, colored, and black pottery existed. Glazed and hard glazed pottery with primitive porcelain characteristics first appeared during the Shang Dynasty. Porcelain was first made in the Eastern Han Dynasty, and the production techniques became highly advanced level during the Tang Dynasty. The development of porcelain manufacturing blossomed during the Song Dynasty with many famous kilns. From body blank, decorating, and glazing to firing, techniques from the Qing Dynasty exceeded those of the previous periods.

Violet sand earthenware of Yixing in Jiangsu Province, Nixing pottery of Qinzhou in Guangxi Province, water pottery of Jianshui in Yunnan Province, and the Rongchang pottery of Sichuan Province are crowned as the four most famous Chinese potteries.


TOPYixing Violet Sand Earthenware

Yixing violet sand earthenware is the most famous pottery made using violet sand, a local material with a hard and fine texture, dark colors and exquisite workmanship. Different mixing techniques and cooking temperatures create a variety of colors, such as azure, chestnut, dark red, pear yellow, vermillion purple, crabapple red, light grey, greenish black, and more.

Yixing violet sand earthenware boasts varied shapes and delicate combinations of lines and planes. Two major designs exist, including imitations with certain variations on natural objects, such as fruits or flowers. Major products include tea sets, flower pots and others, with tea sets being the most famous, as they maintain the scent of the tea while infusing and the color during storage. On hot days, tea does not spoil if sitting in a violet sand tea set, it the set holds in heat but does not burn hands. The violet sand tea set was crowned the king of tea sets around the world.

Yixing violet sand pottery first appeared in the Song Dynasty and rapidly grew during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. During the reign of Emperor Zhengde and Emperor Jiajing in the Ming Dynasty, art made with violet sand became more popular. At this time, violet sand craftsmen first made their presence known. Since then, the industry has produced a host of masters. A Yixing violet sand potter won the golden medal in the Chicago International Exposition in 1926, and the silver medal in the Belgium exposition in 1930. After the establishment of the PRC, Yixing violet sand handicraft developed even further, with new technical creations, such as new colors (greenish blue), new craftwork (tinsel inlay) and traditional techniques like engraving, bass-relief, printing, appliqués, and others. Yixing violet sand pottery won a National Golden Award in 1983 and another golden award during the Leipzig exhibition.

Purchase guide: Available in handicraft markets in all large and medium-sized cities in China, as well as at


TOPLuoyang Tang Tricolor Pottery

Tang tricolor pottery is pottery painted with three colors of glaze, such as yellow, green and white or yellow, green and blue.

Luoyang is located in the northern province of Henan, and is known as the Eastern Capital of the Tang Dynasty. The finest quality Tang tricolor potteries unearthed so far are mainly from Luoyang. They are vivid and exquisite, and have been named Luoyang Tang tricolor pottery.

The making of Tang tricolor pottery is complex yet inconsequential. First, the base is placed into the kiln and heated to around 1100 centigrade. It is then removed, colored and heated again to around 900 centigrade. The major ingredient of tricolor glaze is aluminum silicate, and the color generation toner consists of various metallic oxides, such as ferrum or antimony in light yellow, ferrum in ocher yellow, bronze in green, copper, cobalt in blue and manganese in purple.

Tang tricolor pottery is the artistic essence of the Tang Dynasty, and absorbed the merits of art such as Chinese paintings, stone carvings, sculptures, and others. The pottery adopts ornamental patterns created by printing, laying and carving. It is characterized by boldness, details and softness in its form, simplicity in its carving style and smoothness in its lines. With a unique artistic style and distinct ethnic features, it fully demonstrates the social appearance and high artistic standards of the glorious Tang Dynasty. Tang tricolor pottery has great varieties, the most popular being the pottery figure and the household item.

Reproduction and imitation of Tang tricolor pottery have been happening in Luoyang for nearly a century. After the founding of New China, Luoyang Artistic Ceramics Factory was established, with a specialized department set up to study and develop the craftsmanship of Tang tricolor pottery. This has taken its artistic techniques and standards to a higher level. Now, Tang tricolor pottery remains a traditional export item from China to more than 50 regions and countries in the world.

Purchase guide: Available in handicraft markets in all large and medium-sized cities in China, as well as at


TOPXingzhou Nixing Pottery

Nixing pottery of Qinzhou in Guangxi Province, one of the four famous types of pottery, is hailed as a unique art in China. It is a specialty of Qinzhou, and is made from peculiar red clay. Nixing pottery has a history of over one thousand years, and the oldest pieces were produced around 618 AD. In recent years, Nixing pottery became popular again and has increased in popularity among collectors and consumers both at home and abroad.

Through the unique quality of the clay and its delicate craftsmanship, Qinzhou Nixing pottery appears archaic, with a bronze or liver color. It displays a flambé glaze and turns azure after being fired in high temperatures. Moreover, it becomes smoother polishing. The assortment of Nixing pottery items is over 600, with the major ones being tea sets, stationery, tableware, vases, coffee utensils, incense tripods and antique imitations.

Nixing pottery is also popular because of its peculiar functions. It can withstand strong acids and bases, keeps things fresh against the dampness and is non- toxic. It also maintains the taste and color of tea for days, and even in hot weather, tea stored in the pottery does not spoil. This also applies to food. Moreover, a tea scent remains in the pot after it has been used for a long time, and the scent exists, even without tea, by pouring hot water into the pot.

Nixing pottery is sold to more that 30 regions and countries, including Japan, the US, Britain, Germany and South East Asia. Precious items have been sent to many foreign and international expositions, and the pottery has won many honors, including more than 40 gold and silver awards in exhibitions such as the ceramic fair during the 100th Anniversary of Belgium. Nixing pottery is your best choice for your collection and as a utility item.

Purchase guide: Available at the Qinbaozhai pottery gallery in Qinzhou of Guangxi Province, as well as in all large and medium-sized cities in China.


TOPJianshui Pottery

Jianshui pottery is short for Jianshui artistic pottery, wonderful Chinese artistic pottery with a history of more than two hundred years.

Producing artistic pottery takes a combination of high quality materials and gorgeous techniques, each complementary and indispensable to each other. Jianshui pottery is just the kind of high quality pottery to come from such a perfect combination. Around the Wanyao Village in the suburb of the town of Jianshui, the abundant clay contained in the surrounding area is of excellent quality, and is suitable for making high-grade pottery, as it is fine and glossy and has good viscosity. Families of pottery craftsmen have been making Jianshui pottery for generations. Various Jianshui potteries are made with five-color clay through delicate processes like body blank, painting, carving, scraping, clinkering, and polishing. They are beautifully shaped with elegant and antique patterns, and are hard and solid, as well as fine and glossy. The brightly colored surface is shiny and, when you knock on it, the sound is like knocking on bronze and stone tablets. All of these features demonstrate the strong ancient ethnic flavor of China.

Among various Jianshui pottery, the white-pattern-bedded-in-black style is especially precious--beautiful white flowers bedded in the shiny black surface of the pottery renders a sharp but harmonious color contrast that makes the pottery distinctive in style and difficult to let go of once you have obtained an article.

Jianshui pottery boasts a wide variety of articles, including jars, kettles, basins, tea sets, vases, boilers and others. Jianshui pottery is acid- and damp-proof, and it holds heat yet is permeable by air. With Jianhiu pottery, tea is preserved for a long time in the teapot, flowers last long in the vases and food remains fresher longer when stored in Jianshui pottery dishware. Among all of these, the Jianshui pottery boiler is the most famous. Food boiled using a Jianshui pottery boiler and water vapor is especially delicious, and the nutrition is retained. The original version of the famous Yunnan dish, "Boiled Chicken with Panax Notoginseng," is only cooked in a Jianshui pottery boiler.

Purchase guide: Jianshui Pottery Tea House in Yunnan Province ADRESS: No 111, Jianzhong Road, Jianshui County, Yunnan Province (opposite the Confucian Temple) POSTAL CODE: 654300 TELEPHONE: 0871-2882121


TOPRongchang Pottery

Sichuan Rongchang pottery mainly consists of commodities like kettles, jars, pots, vases and so on, with the most famous being the Rongchang pickle jar. The very popular pickle jar is suitable and useful for making pickles as its shape, structure, and proportions are in harmony and create a beautiful appearance. There are two kinds of clay in Rongchang, one is red and the other is white. Craftsmen delicately create various decorations on the pottery with both red and white clay. For example, a pottery body made with red clay can be decorated with white appliqué or a golden mixture of the two colors. The surface of the pottery is beautifully scratched and picked with smooth lines, most of which are single-lined patterns. It is such a model for the combination of function and beauty, with sharp contrasts and simple and natural ornamental patterns.

Over the past centuries, with its unique local craftsmanship and artistic style, Rongchang pottery enjoyed reputations such as “as thin as paper, as bright as glass and as sonorous as chime stone”. It has added an indispensable page to the histories of Chinese ceramics and Chinese arts and crafts.

Purchase guide: Available in all major shops in Rongchang County and Chengdu City.


TOPZibo Artistic Pottery

Zibo pottery enjoys a long history and a reputation in artistic ceramics for high standard in shaping and decoration. Eggshell pottery from the Neolithic Age unearthed in Zibo, as well as the Rain Drop Glaze and Tea-rice Glaze made in the Song Dynasty in Zibo, are considered treasures of China.

The precious Rain Drop Glaze, also known as Oil Drop Glaze, is decorated with silvery white dots evenly on a black glaze surface. The dots are as small as rice, the surface shines like gilded spots when containing tea, it glitters with silvery lights when holding wine, and it glimmers brilliantly under the sun. In Japan, the Rain Drop Glaze is called Temmoku Glaze, and tea sets made with this porcelain are considered top grade in Japanese tea ceremonies.

Tea-flake glaze is a kind of mat glaze containing crystalline minerals. Stationeries, vases, and kettles made with tea-flake glaze all have a pure glaze color and an antique and elegant appearance.

Distinguished development has been made in pottery paintings, which has broadened the dimension of ceramic decorations, especially with a special painting method. This method solves the immemorial problem of the inability to decorate golden-black glaze pottery with colored paintings. Works like “Song of the Birds,” “Song of Spring” and “Miss Peacock” are all favorably viewed by the arts circle for their abundant colors and distinctive styles.

Zibo carved porcelain is known both at home and abroad, especially portrait hanging dishes made with gorgeous workmanship and vivid pictures. The hanging dishes made by the master craftsman Mr. Ma Lin, “Premier Zhou Enlai & President Kim Il Sung” and “King Bhumibol Adulyadej & The Queen Sirikit of Thailand,” were respectively gifted to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Thailand when Vice Chairwoman Deng Yingchao visited those countries.

Porcelain sculptures made in Zibo enjoy a good reputation in artistic achievement. Moreover, various figures and animals carved in porcelain are charming for the different postures and shapes, as well as their delicate and pleasing appearance.

Zibo archaistic porcelain is highly praised for its exquisite workmanship, its antique qualities and its vivid shapes. New and fresh in design, novel and pleasing and appreciated, Zibo garden porcelain has added greater charm to the art of Chinese gardening. Every time porcelain craftsmen from Zibo were invited to demonstrate their skills in overseas performances, they took the audience's breath away wherever they went.

Purchase guide: Ceramic and glaze market of Boshan District, Shantou Zhen, Zibo City.


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