Chinese ceramics are classed as one of the finest crafts in the world. Chinese artisans have perfected earthenware throughout the centuries and have turned everyday utensils into beautiful art works admired by all.
Ceramics include objects which are created from earthen materials. The object is moulded into its desired state either by hand or on a rotating wheel and placed into a hot kiln. It is then glazed to create a smooth and shiny texture.
The first pottery ware found in China dates back to the Dawenkou culture (5000-3000 BC) in the Shandong Province. Small tripods and vessels have been discovered in many regions in southern China from the Neolithic Period (10000-2000 BC) and many believe it could have started as early as 11000 BC.
During the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) pottery consisted solely of the colours brown and black. They were rough and unglazed with limited carved patterns, however, considered advanced for this time in history. Pottery was often placed in the tombs of the wealthy. Themes included souls of the deceased, animals, flames and clouds. Small figurines of animals were also extracted from tombs of this era.
Porcelain first emerged during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and quickly found a booming market within China and other parts of the world through the Silk Road. It was as widely used within China as pottery in the Three Kingdoms Period (220-265 AD).
Glazed ceramics can be traced back to the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD). Pottery from the Jin Dynasty can be distinguished by its round base and geometric designs.
The influence of the foreign world started to invade Chinese pottery during the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). Foreign animals, objects and people started to appear in ceramic designs. Three basic colours dominated pottery from this era, white, yellow and green. The influence of foreign ceramics is also visible in the shapes of the pottery in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Pottery of this time was known for being glazed in blue flux and featured only one colour.
The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) is famous for its blue and white chinaware. Blue and white ceramics have been popular within China since its emergence and are still known worldwide as a characteristic of Chinese culture. It is well known for its translucent, liquid proof body and beautiful white colour. Jingdezhen became the central place of production for porcelain when craftsmen started using finely crushed porcelain stones.
During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, enameled decorations appeared on many forms of ceramics and exportation to the foreign world peaked. Porcelain also started to be exported dramatically with many countries realizing the sophisticated and talented skills of Chinese craftsman. During this period, chinaware started being mass produced and widely exported.
Glassware is rare within China and there is limited record of its history. Glassware is mainly produced from western techniques which have been introduced into China throughout the past centuries. It is known that moulded glass has been in use since The Warring States Period (475 -221 BC). It was popular during the Wanli period (1573-1620) of the Ming Dynasty in the Shandong province. During this time the techniques of glassware were spread to Beijing. The first large glassware plant was opened during the Qing Dynasty. Most glassware features a round flower shape opening with a wide round base and is either white or yellow opaque. Snuff bottles are the main glassware exported from China to the rest of the world.
Many ceramic designs in China are mass produced and are now available in most department stores throughout the world. Fake traditional ceramics are often sold as authentic Chinese art making it hard for art collectors to purchase proper pieces of ceramics. It is important to know the origin of the art work and confirm its authenticity before purchasing.