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Chinese Tradition and Culture [Copy link] 中文

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Chinese porcelain

Chinese porcelain is porcelain, a type of ceramic, from China and has been created for well over a millennium. The term covers a wide range of Chinese high-fired ceramics, some of which would probably not be recognized as porcelain under some Western definitions of that term. It is usually green-fired or once-fired, which means that the body and the glaze are fired together. After the body of a piece is formed and finished it is dried, coated with a glaze, dried again and fired. In the high temperature of the kiln the body and the glaze are fused together to become a unit.

Chinese enamelled wares are also produced in this way, but the enamels are added after the first, high-temperature, firing and the pieces are sent for a second firing in a smaller, lower-temperature kiln. Suitably modified with a flux, the material used to form the body of a piece of Chinese porcelain was often used as a glaze. The similarity in composition of the body and the glaze helped to produce a good fit between the two that reduced cracking in the glaze.

Materials

Chinese porcelain is mainly made using porcelain stone, china clay or a combination of the two materials. Both rocks derive from the weathering and decomposition of granitic rocks. China clay (Gaoling) largely comprises the clay mineral kaolinite. Chinese porcelain stone, petunse (baidunzi), is a micaceous rock containing sericite and other minerals including quartz (Kerr and Wood 2004). Porcelain stone often occurs kaolinised to a greater or lesser extent.

Porcelain stone and china clay are both composed of platy minerals, which is to say that they are composed to varying degrees of small platelets of high surface area (external and internal) and are capable of holding relatively large amounts of water. This is of importance because some of the methods used for forming the body parts of ceramic pieces (throwing on a wheel, for example) depend upon the application of compression to align the platelets and increase the plasticity and workability of the clay body. In the case of throwing, compression is applied by the hand of the potter.

Classification

In the West whiteware ceramics includes the categories of earthenware, stoneware or porcelain, depending largely upon the composition of the body and the kiln temperature required for its firing. However, the Chinese tradition recognises only two primary categories of ceramics, high-fired [cí 瓷] and low-fired [táo 匋] (Pierson 1996). The oldest Chinese dictionaries define porcelain [cí 瓷] as "fine, compact pottery" [táo 匋] (Bushell 1977). In the West the property of translucence is often regarded as a defining feature of porcelain, but this is not the case in China, where any thick or opaque piece that rings with a reasonably clear note on being struck would be regarded as porcelain [cí 瓷] (Bushell 1977).

Chinese ceramic wares are also often classified as being either northern or southern, so called because present day China comprises two separate, and from the geological point of view distinctly different land masses, the northern and the southern. The two land masses were brought together by the action of continental drift, forming a junction that lies between the Yellow river and the Yangtze river. Geological differences between the northern and the southern land masses have influenced the nature of the ceramic wares made in the two areas and, for example, in the north ceramic wares tend to have bodies made with clays, in the south ceramic wares tend to have bodies made predominantly of porcelain stone[citation needed]. In turn, this led to the development of coal-fuelled kilns suitable for the slow, high-temperature firing of clay-rich wares in the north and wood-fuelled kilns more suitable for the faster, lower-temperature firing of the stone-rich southern wares.

Figure:
A Chinese Ming Dynasty cylindrical porcelain vase, dated to the early 15th century, Freer Gallery of Art.
415px-Ming_Dynasty,_Clyndrical_Vase,_porcelain,_early_15th_century.jpg
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Chinese porcelain

History

In the context of Chinese ceramics the term porcelain lacks a universally accepted definition. This in turn has led to confusion about when the first Chinese porcelain was made. Claims have been made for the late Eastern Han period (100 to 200 AD), the Three Kingdoms period (220 to 280 AD), the Six Dynasties period (220 to 589 AD), and the Tang Dynasty (618 to 906 AD). Some experts are currently of the view that the first true porcelain was made in the Chinese province of Zhejiang during the Eastern Han period. Chinese experts emphasise the presence of a significant proportion of porcelain-building minerals (china clay, porcelain stone or a combination of both) as an important factor in defining porcelain and shards recovered from Eastern Han kiln sites in Zhejiang, estimated to have been fired at a temperature of between 1260 to 1300 degrees Celsius, were found that met this condition (He Li 1996). However, so-called porcelaneous wares or proto-porcelain wares made using at least some kaolin and fired at high temperatures are known that date to well before the year 1000 BC. Unfortunately, the line that divides porcelaneous wares and proto-porcelain wares from true porcelain wares is not a clear one.

One of the first mentions of porcelain by a foreigner was made by an Arabian traveller in the eighth or ninth century (during the Tang Dynasty) who recorded that "They have in China a very fine clay with which they make vases which are as transparent as glass; water is seen through them. The vases are made of clay" (Bushell 1906). The Arabs were well acquainted with glass and there can be little doubt that the author of these words knew that the vases were not made of that material.

During the Sui and Tang periods (581 to 906) a wide range of ceramics, low-fired and high-fired, were produced. These included the well-known Tang lead-glazed sancai (three-colour) wares, the high-firing, lime-glazed Yue celadon wares and low-fired wares from Changsha. In northern China, high-fired, translucent porcelains were made at kilns in the provinces of Henan and Hebei.

Figure:
A Tang Dynasty porcelain bottle with lid, 8th century AD, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington D.C.
487px-Tang_Dynasty,_porcelain_bottle_with_lid,_8th_century.jpg
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Chinese porcelain

Increasing use of china clay in the South


During the Song and Yuan dynasties porcelain was made at Jingdezhen and other kiln sites in southern China using crushed and refined porcelain stone alone, but by the early eighteenth century china clay and porcelain stone were mixed in about equal proportions. China clay when added to the body material produced a porcelain of great strength and whiteness (whiteness, in particular, was a much sought after property of porcelain, especially that used for blue and white wares).

Porcelain bodies made from porcelain stone fire at a lower temperature, in the region of 1250 degrees Celsius, than those made with a mixture of china clay and porcelain stone, which require firing in the region of 1350 degrees Celsius.

The temperatures within a typical large, southern, egg-shaped kiln varied greatly, from hot, near the firebox, to cooler, near to the chimney at the opposite end of the kiln. One advantage gained by the addition in varying amounts of china clay was that the composition of the paste could be altered to suit the position that the wares made from it would occupy in the kiln, with a clay-rich mix being used for wares to be fired at the hot end of the kiln and a stone-rich mix being used for wares to be fired at the cooler end of the kiln.

Figure:
A Northern Song Dynasty porcelain Ding Ware Bottle, dated 11th century - 12th century, Freer Gallery of Art.
Northern_Song_Dynasty,_porcelain_Ding_Ware_Bottle,_11th-12th_century.jpg
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When it comes to the Chinese traditional arts and culture, as a Chinese, I did take great pride in its 5000 yeas of rich and long history. I really wish the Chinese civilization can spread through all over the word. To my great disappointment, as the increasing number of more and more western scholars, professors, and even ordinary people are beginning to demonstrate great interest in Chinese history and culture, but we our Chinese people are ignorant of such brilliant history and culture our ancestor endowed us. Even our education department is also calling for the cancellation of Chinese course from university’s program.

I recalled an article in 环球时报, writing when you travel to many southern cities of China, you cannot distinguish yourself whether you are in China or western country. Our real estates developers or construction designing institute prefers to imitate the construction fashion and their style. In Shanghai, there is a residential region called Times Town imitating the construction style in London, red telephone booth, London-formed buildings. All those make you confused where you are in. More ridiculously, a high-level residents region, named 兰乔圣菲, copyed the traditional Spanish-style construction, where in 1997, 39 people committed suicide together. In some people’s mind, the construction involved western designing are meaning social and economic status and demonstrate their fortune and success. And they did not care about what name they are called.

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Chinese Porcelain

Jingdezhen


The city of Jingdezhen has been an important centre for the production of ceramics in southern China since at least the early Han Dynasty. The early wares were low-fired but by the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 to 589) locally available raw materials were being used to produce a form of porcelain. In the year 1004, under the Song emperor Jingde, the newly re-named city of Jingdezhen was established as a centre for the production of Imperial porcelain. Detailed descriptions of the manufacture of porcelain at Jingdezhen during the Qing dynasty exist, including a memoir written by Tang Ying and the letters of Père d'Entrecolles.

Two letters written by Père Francois Xavier d'Entrecolles, a Jesuit missionary (and industrial spy) who lived and worked in Jingdezhen, described in detail the methods and materials used in the manufacturing process of porcelain wares in the later years of the reign of the Kangxi emperor; an important period in the history of Chinese ceramics. In his first letter, dated 1712, d'Entrecolles described the way in which porcelain stone was crushed, refined and formed into little white bricks known in Chinese as petuntse or baidunzi. He then went on to describe the refining of china clay, kaolin or Gaoling, the preparation of glazes, the stages of forming porcelain wares, glazing and firing. Père d'Entrecolles, explaining his motives for describing what he had seen at Jingdezhen, states that "Nothing but my curiosity could ever have prompted me to such researches, but it appears to me that a minute description of all that concerns this kind of work might, somehow, be useful in Europe" but his first letter came too late to be of much help in the European search for the secret of making porcelain. In 1743, during the reign of the Qianlong emperor, Tang Ying, the imperial supervisor at Jingdezhen produced a memoir entitled "Twenty illustrations of the manufacture of porcelain." Unfortunately, the original illustrations have been lost but the text of the memoir is still accessible, together with photographs replacing the missing illustrations and an additional commentary.[2]

Jingdezhen was the main production centre for porcelain exported to Europe. The large-scale trade started in the reign of the Wanli emperor (1572 to 1620).

Figure:
Decorating porcelain at modern-day Jingdezhen

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-4-19 04:08 PM ]
Porcelain_Workshop,_Jingdezhen,_Jiangxi,_China.jpg
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Chinese Porcelain

Tang sancai burial wares


Sancai means three-colours. However, the colours of the glazes used to decorate the sancai wares of the Tang dynasty were not limited to three in number. In the West, Tang sancai wares were sometimes referred to as egg-and-spinach by dealers, not without reason, for three of the colours commonly used in its decoration were green, yellow and white (though the latter two colours might more properly be described as amber and off-white or cream).

Tang sancai wares were northern wares made using white and buff-firing secondary kaolins and fireclays (Wood 1999) at kiln sites that include Tongchuan in Shaanxi, Neiqui county in Hebei and Gongxian in Henan (Wood 1999). The clays used for burial wares were similar to those used by Tang potters for the bodies of high-fired whitewares, but the burial wares were fired at a lower temperature than contemporaneous whitewares. Burial wares, such as the well-known representations of camels and horses, were cast in sections, in moulds, the parts being luted together with a clay slip. In some cases, a degree of individuality was imparted to the assembled figurines by hand-carving.

Figure:
Tang Dynasty sancai horse. Shanghai Museum
Tang_horse.jpg
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Chinese Porcelain

Jian tea wares


Jian blackwares, mainly comprising tea wares, were made at kilns in the county of Jianyang in the province of Fujian and reached the height of their popularity during the Song dynasty. The wares were made using locally-won, iron-rich clays and fired in an oxidising atmosphere at temperatures in the region of 1300 degrees Celsius. The glaze was made using clay similar to that used for forming the body, but fluxed with wood-ash. At high temperatures in the kiln phases within the molten glaze separated to produce the patterning called hare's fur. Some pooling of the glaze is usually evident in Jian wares and where the bowls were set tilted for firing the glaze often ran into drips on one side of the bowl.

The hare's fur Jian tea bowl illustrated is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was made during the Song dynasty (960 to 1279 AD) and exhibits the typical pooling, or thickening, of the glaze near to its foot. The hare's fur patterning in the glaze of this bowl resulted from the random effect of phase separation during early cooling in the kiln and is unique to this bowl, no two bowls have identical patterning. The bowl also has a dark brown iron-foot which is typical of these wares. It would have been fired, probably with several thousand other other pieces, each in its own stackable saggar, in a single-firing in a large dragon kiln. One such kiln, built on the side of a steep hill, was almost 150 metres in length, though most Jian dragon kilns were fewer than 100 metres in length.

An eleventh century resident of Fujian wrote: "Tea is of light colour and looks best in black cups. The cups made at Jianyang are bluish-black in colour, marked like the fur of a hare. Being of rather thick fabric they retain the heat, so that when once warmed through they cool very slowly, and they are additionally valued on this account. None of the cups produced at other places can rival these. Blue and white cups are not used by those who give tea-tasting parties" (Bushell 1977).

Jian tea wares of the Song dynasty were greatly appreciated and copied in Japan, where they were known as temmoku or tenmoku wares. Phase separation in the iron-rich glazes of Chinese blackwares was also used to produce the well-known oil-spot, teadust and partridge-feather glaze effects.

Figure:
Song Dynasty Jian tea bowl (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Jian_bowl.jpg
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