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Jingdezhen Porcelain

History of Jingdezhen

Jingdezhen, known as the 'Porcelain Capital' of China, is one of China's most famous cultural and historic cities. It is situated in the northeastern part of Jiangxi Province, East China.

Jingdezhen  

According to the historical records, Jingdezhen's ceramic started from the Eastern Han dynasty and it was explored and pursued through the Three Kingdoms period, the Wei Dynasty, the Jin Dynasty, the North and South Dynasties in the sixth century AD and the Tang Dynasty. It had evolved from the making of potteries to the making of tributes for the emperors.

acient porcelain making

The name of "Jingdezhen" was born in the Song Dynasty. During the Song Zhenzong Jingde period (AD 1004-1007), the Emperor sent officers to Jingdezhen to produce porcelains for emperor's palaces. All official porcelains were inscribed with a text "made in the reign of Jingde". Since then, the nation has called the porcelain made there as "Jingdezhen's porcelain", and the name "Jingdezhen" was born.

From Yuan Dynasty to Ming and Qing Dynasty, emperors set up the Porcelain Office and built the royal kiln, which produced many wonderful ceramic articles. The Jingdezhen porcelain enjoys the praise of "white as jade, thin as paper, bright as a mirror, sound like a chime". The most famous types of porcelain from Jingdezhen are blue-white porcelain, linglong porcelain, famille-rose porcelain, and color-glazed porcelain.

Blue-White Porcelain

The blue-white porcelain is the most representative among all porcelain produced in Jingdezhen. Baking blue-white porcelain originated in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). During the Yuan and Ming dynasties (1271-1644), blue-white porcelain became increasingly popular, and since the 14th century, manufacturers have shipped blue-white porcelain to world markets. The porcelain reached its peak in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Its thin, translucent quality and exotic motifs made it very valuable throughout Europe and the colonies, ranking first among blue-white porcelain nationwide.

Blue-white porcelain actually belongs to color-glazed porcelain and the coloring agent used is called cobalt oxide. First, using cobalt oxide, paint the unbaked mould, then apply a layer of translucent glaze over it and bake it at 1,300 degrees Celsius. The cobalt oxide will be reduced under the high temperature into a blue hue, which will be very bright and durable without poisonous lead. Each piece of monochrome-glazed porcelain has a single bright color with an exquisite design. A very good mastery of controlling temperature changes and content composition is required. Blue-white porcelain is most famous among the four traditional types of porcelain produced in Jiangdezhen, and is renowned as the "ever-lasting blue flower."

Linglong Porcelain

Linglong means "delicate" in Chinese. Linglong porcelain was created and developed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Called the "porcelain inlaid with glass," Linglong porcelain is famous both in China and abroad for its exquisitely carved patterns and glittering, translucent appeal.

Grain-sized holes were hollowed out of the thin roughcast and glaze was applied several times to cover them. Then, the half-finished products were baked in kilns to produce the Linglong porcelain. Characterized by ornaments that pierced through the porcelain, the porcelain saw some developments in terms of technique during the Qing Dynasty. During this period, craftsmen ingeniously integrated the techniques of making blue-and-white porcelain with that of Linglong porcelain to create the blue-and-white Linglong porcelain much loved by the people.

The dark-green transparent Linglong designs and emerald-green blue-and-white patterns served as a foil for each other, creating a unique sense of beauty. Linglong wares were generally limited to small objects, such as cups, brush pots and covered jars. The decoration was sometimes unglazed, left either white or enhanced with gilding or colored glazes.

Famille-rose Porcelain

The famille-rose porcelain is called 'pink enamel'. When making the famille-rose porcelain, craftsmen paint white-colored glass onto the surface of a pre-fired porcelain body, creating patterns with Chinese painting techniques and then baking it in a kiln at a temperature of 600 ℃ to 900 ℃.

In the early Qing Dynasty(1644-1911), there were only a few works of famille-rose porcelain, whose color paintings were also very simple - mainly patterns of flowers, clouds and dragons. An obvious change on the famille-rose porcelain was seen in the Qianlong-- other colors such as green, yellow, blue, carmine or purple, were added to the white porcelain. During the Xianfeng and Tongzhi reigns, the composition of famille-rose pictures became quite complicated, featuring comparatively faint hues.

 

The famille-rose porcelain reputed for its beautiful, elegant, and soft powder embellishment. In aesthetic expression, it changed the style from impressionistic free-hand painting to realism. The style emphasized drawing animal, bird, fish and insects more realistically. For instance, in drawing flowers, emphasis was put on color tone as well as light and dark shadings. In drawing feathers, emphasis was put on changes in feather texture and color. In drawing people, emphasis was put on facial appearance and experssion. These changes were influenced by Western art, before the Kangxi Period.

Color-glazed Porcelain

Color-glazed porcelain was one of Jingdezhen's major products during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. It was colored using both high-temperature and low-temperature glazes, with copper, iron, or gold as the coloring agent.

From the time of the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns, iron has successfully been utilized for its even, clear and stable glaze qualities. Reputed as a "manmade gem", color-glazed porcelain looks brilliant and seems to carry many connotations. Thanks to new scientific measures for allotting ingredients and controlling kiln temperatures, craftsmen have not only managed to improve the quality of color glazes and find formulas for different products, but they have also successively created more than 100 glaze colors and several kinds of lusterless colored glazes.

Generally speaking, color-glazed porcelain falls into the following categories: blue, dark reddish, black, white, yellow, green and blue-and-white glazed, with each color further subcategorized into a specific type.