國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum (New window) Image: The New Era of Ornamentation: 1350-1521
Image: The New Era of Ornamentation: 1350-1521
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Title: Introduction
 
 

With the establishment of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in the latter half of the 14th century, the production of objets d'art entered a new realm. In the world of porcelain alone, as painted and colored glazes of decorative designs became more elaborate, this period may well be dubbed a "new era of ornamentation." Compared with plainer Sung and Yüan pieces, the emphasis on colors in Ming porcelains is a key feature differentiating them from predecessors. Be it early Ming piece of carved red lacquer with its multi-layered engraving or a glittering work of cloisonné enamel, one can clearly observe the value that Ming artists placed on color.

Items of daily use were specially produced for the Ming imperial court. The most skilled craftsmen of ceramics, lacquers, enamels, and textiles were summoned to work at the imperial workshops. Court officials also studied the arts themselves, and even they themselves provided exemplary models. With the full support of official supplies of materials, manpower, and tools, the development of imperial wares reached new heights. The handicraft most heavily endorsed by the Ming court was the making of porcelains. The administration of porcelain production was very strict, with specially appointed officials supervising its operation and introducing innovative approaches. Advancing from the high- and low-temperature, monochrome, underglaze-blue (blue-and-white), and underglaze-red wares of the late Yüan, they were able to come up with multi-colored, "wu-ts'ai (five-color)", and "tou-ts'ai (competing-color)" wares, ushering in a new, lively, and colorful period of decorative design.

Following Cheng Ho's maritime explorations in the early Ming, China's contact with the Middle East became more frequent. There were members of the court who were followers of Tibetan Buddhism and Islam, and they eagerly absorbed elements of Persian culture. In the design of shapes and decorative motifs, auspicious Arabic and Tibetan inscriptions were integrated into the making of wares. One can see the introduction of new elements, increasing the vitality and beauty of Ming craftsmanship.

 

 
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