The Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in China
The Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in China
The Development of Porcelain in ChinaThe Development of Porcelain in ChinaLong-term ExhibitionsThe Development of Porcelain in China






          The term "Porcelain" generally refers to an object whose body is made from clay containing kaolin, is covered with a glaze, and is fired at a high temperature so that the body material fuses and the resultant object is impervious to liquids and is resonant when struck.

          The ruling house of the Sung dynasty (960-1279) doted on refinement and the elegant accoutrements of culture, and it accordingly gave priority to the fine arts. Under this stimulation, the manufacture of porcelain progressed, and it was at this time that several famous types of wares were produced. From the T'ang dynasty (618-907) into the Sung, Ting ware succeeded Hsing ware, Lung-ch'uan ware carried on the tradition of Yuah ware, and both the white wares and the green wares made great strides in terms of quality and quantity. In addition, the production of dignified shapes and harmonious glazes reached a full maturation in Kuan ware, Ju ware, Ko ware, and Chua ware. The porcelain industry at Ching-te-chen in Kiangsi province was also forging ahead at this time with Ying ch'ing wares, white wares and Tz'u-chou type wares being sold throughout the north. Pieces with black ground and white decoration or white ground and black decoration are particularly lively and exuberant, expressing the special spirit of the people. Among the black-glazed wares, Chien wares from Fukien province and Chi-chou wares from Kiangsi province are the most famous. In the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) Ching-te-chen became the center of porcelain production for the entire empire. Most representative of Yuan dynasty porcelain are the underglaze blue and underglaze red wares, whose designs painted beneath the glaze in cobalt blue or copper red, replaced the more sedate monochromes of the Sung dynasty. At the same time, from the standpoint of the shape of the objects, Yuan dynasty porcelains became thick, heavy, and characterized by great size, transforming the refinement of Sung dynasty shapes. From this we can get some idea of the differences between the eating and drinking customs of the Sung and Yuan dynasties. 

          The imperial porcelain factory was established at Ching-te-chen at the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and from this time the position of Ching-te-chen as the center of porcelain production became consolidated. The imperial wares that were specially manufactured for use at court were made particularly exquisitely and were marked with the reign mark of the emperor himself. In addition to the monochromes and the underglaze blue porcelains that continued to be produced among the official wares of the Ming dynasty, innovations appeared throughout the period, such as pan-t'o-t'ai wares in the Yung-lo reign (1403-1425), chi-hung in the Hsuan-te (1426-1436), tou-ts'ai in the Ch'eng-hua (1465-1488), chiao-huang in the Hung-chih (1488-1506), and wu-ts'ai in the Wan-li (1573-1620), all of which are representatively significant in the history of the development of Ming dynasty porcelain. 

          In the early period of the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911), during the reigns of K'ang-hsi (1662-1722), Yung-cheng (1722-1736), and Ch'ien-lung (1736-1795), the court considered the appointment of the supervising official at the imperial porcelain factory at Ching-te-chen a serious matter. This represented a reform from the Ming practice of entrusting control to court eunuchs, and as a result there appeared great progress in craftsmanship at the factory, picking up the legacy of Ming dynasty skill and taking it to the pinnacle of its development. The use of brilliant, glittering fen-ts'ai enamels is a characteristic of porcelain in the Ch'ing dynasty. 

          In terms of both quantity and quality, the collection of official porcelain in the National Palace Museum may truly be termed the foremost in the world. Every kind of ware from the Sung, Yuan, Ming and Ch'ing dynasties have been selected here to exhibit the full spectrum of porcelain development. In addition to the visual enjoyment these objects present, it is hoped that they will help you, the viewer, to understand the accomplishments of the art of porcelain in China.