CHINESE PORCELAIN: The Origin of Porcelain

A rare blue, white and celadon porcelain moon flask with a dragon, which belonged to the 18th century Chinese Emperor Qianlong, sold for 4.1 million euros at an auction on March 7, 2020 - photo by CGTN

As the name implied, China is the first nation to produce real porcelain in the whole world. In the Chinese history of this day and age, Chinese porcelain is considered to be one of the most important inventions. 

The discovery of porcelain in China was said to be an improvement that transformed the face of art all over the world. It took many years for the process to be replicated somewhere else, but by that time, the ubiquity of Chinese porcelain was stamped determinedly in the books of history.  

A rare and finely carved Ding ‘Lotus’ dish, Northern Song Dynasty, 11th-12th century – photo by Christie’s | Lot 2816

In actual fact, China was the origin of porcelain, and it took a very long time to reach the modern material.  Ultimately, porcelain and the know-how needed to generate it started spreading to other parts of East Asia. Production and artistry had attained new heights from 960 AD to 1279 AD. At this period, porcelain production became well organised, and the kiln sites exhumed and fired as many as 25,000 wares.  

Ding ware turned out to be the premier porcelain of the Song dynasty, even as Xing ware was regarded to be among the greatest of the Tang dynasty porcelain 

Porcelain wares were exported to Europe in the period of Ming dynasty of 1368 AD to 1644 AD. It was during this era that a number of popular Chinese porcelain art styles like the coveted Blue and White wares got to Europe. The Ming dynasty was in control of much of the porcelain trade, which later extended to Europe, Africa and Asia. 

The blue and white “fish pond” bowl, Ming Dynasty – photo by Sotheby’s | China Daily

The Portuguese merchants started direct trade of China Porcelain with the Ming dynasty by sea, in 1517 and followed by the Dutch merchants in 1598. In imperial China, a number of porcelains were more exceedingly appreciated than others. These most treasured types can be known by their relationship with the court, either as products of furnaces or acknowledgment offerings under imperial supervision 

The History of Chinese Porcelain 

In the new Stone Age of seven or eight thousand years ago, the people of the Yellow River Basin started producing pottery, bumpy in workmanship. Quite a great number of ceramics were discovered from the New Stone Age, such as geometric pattern pottery, black pottery, painted pottery, and grey pottery 

A rare sancai and blue-glazed quatrfoil dish, Tang dynasty – photo by Sotheby’s | Lot 733

In 1046 to 256 BC, Chinese porcelains were used on architectures as tile nail, eaves tile, and segmental tile. Later, in 202 – 220 B.C, glazed potteries progressively changed the bronze wares as the daily utensils, therefore inspiring the emergence and growth of Chinese porcelain. 

The Song and Tang Dynasties were a period of speedy growth in Chinese porcelain production. The three-coloured glazed pottery of 618 to 907 was the optimum among the ancient Chinese pottery and was time and again taken as the buried wares for nobles and emperors in those days 

In 960 to 1279, a lot of famous furnaces surfaced in Song Dynasty, each with unique and special firing methods and manufacturing skills. As a result of the incessant wars, porcelain growth was sluggish in Yuan Dynasty. All the same, the technology used in the production of porcelain was improved, leading to the production of the under-glaze red porcelain and the blue and white porcelain. 

A rare Qing dynasty vase that was discovered in the attic of a French family home, sold at auction in Paris for €16.2 million – photo by

From 1368 to 1912, the manufacture of Chinese porcelain attained its height of distinction in both Qing and Ming Dynasties. Their porcelain wares, including the vases, jugs, blue and white bowls, polychrome, are still very popular these days. Almost the whole porcelain industry focused on Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province for the era of these two dynasties. The porcelain painted in cobalt oxide underneath a shiny finish turned out to be the most celebrated in the Ming Dynasty period and was transported in huge quantities to the Near East and Middle-East. 

Chinese Porcelain in the Western World 

In the Islamic World and Western World, Chinese porcelain washighly prized, even when the Europeans discovered how to reproduce it in the 1700s. The colours were vivid and stunning, the artwork was striking, the artistic pieces were long-lasting and helpful, and the pieces were reasonably priced. 

Porcelain painted in underglaze blue and iron-red enamel, Jingdezhen [Jiangxi Province, China] Jardinière, early 18th century – photo by Royal Collection Trust
The European had learned and understood how to manufacture high-quality porcelain after the middle 1700sNevertheless, the Chinese porcelain was still valued for its relatively lower cost and premium quality until a few years afterBut further development came to the production of porcelain in the Western World in 1712, when a Jesuit who visited Jingdezhen forwarded a letter that explicated how to produce high-quality porcelainIt was this widely read letter that aided the production of quality porcelain in Europe till today. 

Porcelain in East Asia 

In the long run, the technology of porcelain manufacturing extended to other parts of East Asia. The thought was that the Koreans first began the production of porcelain ceramics beginning from 960 to 1279. 

Chinese Porcelain Technology and Features 

A blue-and-white ‘Dragon’ vase, Meiping Wanli Period – photo by Christie’s

The blue porcelain produced from ceramics was the first type of Chinese porcelain to be ever produced. This was in the period when the earliest people were firing the textured hard pottery and the white pottery. The blue porcelain was discovered at Feng Long Shan cultural site in Shanxi Province 

This type of porcelain is, of course, the oldest accessible, with a history of about 4200 years. Afterwards, a lot of additional ancient blue porcelains have been discovered in the Yellow River Basin, the lower and middle parts of the Yangtze River and the South region.