Chinese Pottery and Porcelain – Great Progress in Style and Design

Ching-te-chen, the southwestern of Nankin, became a centre of manufacturing porcelain in the fourteenth during the Ming dynasty. These products of porcelain spread the fame of China throughout the civilized world exporting them to western countries. Let us have a look at the details of the Chinese pottery and porcelain history.

The coming of the Ming dynasty saw the emergence of Ching-te-chen, to the southwest of Nankin, as a centre of manufacture. Here, in the fourteenth century, was organized the series of factories making the porcelain that spread the fame of China throughout the civilized world. The rare pieces decorated in under glaze blue of the reigns of Hsuan Te and Ch’eng Hua are the forerunners of the vast quantities later made for export to the West, and of which examples are still relatively commonplace.

Another esteemed type are the ‘three-colour’ wares, usually in the form of vases, with the design outlined in raised threads of clay and filled with colored glazes. These latter date from the reign of Wan Li, when the combination of under glaze blue, and overgraze red, yellow, green and aubergine (brown-purple) was used with effect; a style that led to the well-known famille verte of the reign of K’ang Hsi. A smaller factory at Te-hua, in the south of China, was producing the fine white ware, known as blanc-de-chine (Chinese white), which it continued to copy continually in succeeding centuries.

By this date, about 1600, exportation to Europe was beginning to take place, although ‘blue and white’ (or Nankin, as it is often called) probably formed the bulk. It was towards the end of the seventeenth century, in the reign of the emperor K’ang Hsi, that this export trade assumed enormous proportions and the types of porcelain with which Europeans are familiar were made in quantity. The most popular is the so-called famille verte (green family) with its predominating bright greens and red. All manner of articles were decorated in this style, from sets of vases to figures of goddesses. Large vases were sometimes painted in other colour-combinations: familie jaune and famille noire, in which the ground colour was yellow and black respectively. Examples of these were never numerous, and are now extremely rare.

The single-colour (monochrome) glazes and enamels produced in the Ming dynasty were not only copied, but extended in range during the eighteenth century. A variety of reds and browns were developed, and some of these were controlled skillfully in the kiln to produce unusual effects. Other colors, including yellows and greens, were devised, and a rich ruby red was used sometimes on a class of wares made for export. It occurs on the backs of thin ‘eggshell’ plates of the Yung Cheng period, and as a ground colour on vases and dishes of the same date.

A further innovation in combination with panels of famille verte was the appropriately named ‘powder-blue’. This was made by blowing powdered cobalt through a gauze screen, the panels being protected by pieces of paper, the resulting powdered ground vibrating with colour under the smooth glaze in the best examples. Pieces were sometimes enveloped entirely in powder blue, and decorated over the glaze with designs in the thin and dull gilding used by the Chinese.

By this time, Jesuit missionaries from France had established themselves in China, and were sending back notes of what they could learn of the processes of porcelain making. Of these men, Pere d’EntrecolIes was the most successful and his letters, when they were published eventually, had a great effect on the art in Europe.

The porcelain factories and their produces spread the fame of China and its artists skills and talents. This was seen taking place in the fourteenth century. They produced many types of wares with glazes and with different colors like yellows and greens, were devised, and a rich ruby red was used sometimes on a class of wares made for export. Many of these Chinese designs were copied by the western countries and molded it into their own styles and modified them.

Mitch Johnson is a regular writer for His articles have also appeared on and

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