Oct 11, 2018

The history of Chinese porcelain


Nobody in the history of mankind has ever done porcelain better than the Chinese.


Over centuries, it became a trademark of the nation and brought in considerable revenue. Indeed, it became so in-demand that other countries tried to copy it.


While porcelain isn't rare these days (even our toilet bowls are made of it!), what in particular made Chinese porcelain stand out so much?


What is Porcelain?


Early Chinese Porcelain


Porcelain usually refers to high-fired (1300º) white ceramics with translucent bodies. They make a distinct ringing sound when struck.


Through the centuries, various kinds of white ceramics have been created in China. Each region had different styles and material for making fine porcelain products. For example, northern porcelains were made of clay rich in kaolin (a pure form of clay, low in

impurities), while in southern China, porcelain stone was the primary material.


This meant that Northern porcelains were more dense and compact while Southern Porcelains were more fragile.


Origins of Porcelain

It's believed that porcelain was invented in the age of the Eastern Han Empire (25-220 AD). Archaeological findings discovered porcelain pieces in the sites of the Han-era Empire. However, not much information is available about production techniques used then. What we do know is that they made porcelain so durable that the bright colours from 2000 years ago have still lasted!


Song Dynasty Porcelain


Export of Chinese porcelain began much later, during the Song dynasty

(960-1279). It became an important source of revenue - to the extent the government established ports in Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Hangzhou and Ningbo, greatly enhancing commercial activity. This continued through succeeding dynasties such as the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) as well.


This was the golden period, where China's porcelain began to see global influence. Around the 14th century, potters in Korea tried to imitate Chinese porcelain and achieved reasonable success, while Japanese potters did so for much longer. Even in the Middle East, attempts were made to recreate Chinese Porcelain.


Europe came late to the party, becoming aware of porcelain only in the 17th century, at which point English and German potters attempted to reproduce the same. As the British Museum said, the porcelain influenced the countries who imported it... and the Chinese were also influenced by the countries they exported to.


As demand for porcelain in foreign markets increased, importers began to commission specific shapes designed to cater to a certain country demographic.


Hong Kong Heritage Museum's Chinese Porcelain exhibit:



The Leisure & Cultural Services Department presents to you an incredible exhibition by the duo of Chao Shao-an and Yang Shanshen. The two masters of the Lingnan School of painting bring their rare works of art - a collaboration of painting on porcelain - with their own artistic vision.


The two settled in Hong Kong in the 1940s and met often in the Lingan Art Studio. It's your chance to see masterful artistic dialogue in the most unique form!


They brought their signature style on paper into porcelain and the results will mesmerize you.


Don't miss the special attraction of the exhibit, the "Rose and Evergreen" painting.


Location: 1/F Chao Shao-an Gallery

Date of Phase 2: 8th September onwards


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