Ming Swatow Wares

Collectors prize Swatow ware for its colourful glazes and exuberant, freeform decoration. Swatow ceramics were made during China’s late Ming period, mainly for export to South East Asia.

‘Swatow’, derived from the place-name Shantou, is in fact a misnomer. These ceramics were neither manufactured nor exported from Shantou, which was a small fishing village during the heyday of Swatow ware in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Modern-era archaeological excavations have confirmed that Swatow ware was actually produced in the Zhangzhou prefecture in the southeast of China, with nearby Yuegang acting as the main port of export. In the light of this improved knowledge, these ceramics are now often referred to as Zhangzhou wares.

Read moreMing Swatow Wares

Deqing Ware History

Famed for their black, shiny porcelain ware, the Deqing kilns can be considered complementary to the more popular Yue ware. Dating back to the East Jin Dynasty (317 – 420 A.D.) and ending during the early Southern Dynasties (420 – 589 A.D.) the wares were only actively produced for about a century, after which they faded into obscurity. As a result, porcelain wares of the Deqing kilns preserved to present day are extremely rare.

As well as glazed black porcelain, the Deqing kilns produced their own celadon. Its ancient sites were located within Deqing County in Zhejiang Province, where as many as a dozen kiln sites have been found. This is one of the earliest production areas of black porcelain in Zhejiang.

Read moreDeqing Ware History

Ding Ware History

Heralded during the Song Dynasty, the Ding kilns were celebrated as one of the “Five Great Kilns” producing porcelain in ancient China. The site of the kilns was found in present day Quyang County, Hebei Province. At the time of the Song Dynasty, Quyang County was within the Dingzhou region, hence the name Ding kilns. The excavated artefacts found at the site reveal the history of the kilns.

White porcelain was produced in Dingzhou as early as the Tang Dynasty; by the Five Dynasties Period, the Ding kiln business was already booming. After the Northern Song Dynasty, Ding wares were famous for their off-white glazes and exquisite decoration. Porcelain kilns in other areas all strived to imitate Ding porcelain, which became the golden standard of white porcelain in China. Aside from white porcelain, the Ding wares also produced black, crimson and green-glazed porcelains. The variety of glaze colours and production technology was truly astounding for its time.

Read moreDing Ware History

Yue Ware History

One of the most historically significant examples of Chinese porcelain was Yue ware, first produced in the Chinese province of Zhejiang in 2nd Century CE. Yue ware is characterized by the glazed celadon finish and grey to olive green hues. Early vessels were typically minimally decorated but curvy and elegant in appearance. Yue ware can be attributed with developing and influencing virtually all of South Chinese ceramics varieties.

The wares get their name from the Yue kilns in Northern Zhejiang, these kilns were the fastest developing of all celadon kilns – having the most sites, largest area of coverage and the best quality of products. These kilns led the production and development of celadon in China. The name ‘Yue’ comes from the Tang Dynasty, which referred to the names of products by the locations of their kilns, in this case “Yue” was short for the city of “Yuezhou”.

Read moreYue Ware History

What is Wucai Porcelain?

Wucai, which has its origins in the earlier Doucai ceramics, first appeared during the reign of the Ming dynasty Emperor Jiajing who ruled the Chinese empire between 1521 and 1567. Its manufacture continued through the Ming dynasty until its demise in 1644, and into the succeeding Qing dynasty.

Jingdezhen, often called the Porcelain City and is still producing fine ceramics today, was the main site of production for Wucai ceramics. Although Wucai can be translated as ‘five-colour’ the colours were not strictly limited to that number and the term is best understood as simply multicoloured.

Read moreWhat is Wucai Porcelain?

What Is Sancai?

Sancai, meaning three-coloured, is a polychrome ceramic ware that was produced during the Tang dynasty which ruled China from 618 to 907 AD. Archaeological evidence shows that initially Sancai was exclusively manufactured for the Imperial elite who used the pieces as tomb objects.

The original funerary pieces were often made in the form of animals such as camels and horses, as well as human figurines. The style is figurative and the lead-glaze is highly coloured. Other forms included a variety of vessels such as bowls, vases and incense burners, and these were often decorated with stylised flowers.

Read moreWhat Is Sancai?

What Is Doucai?

The Beauty Of Chinese Doucai…

Meaning, literally ‘contrasting colours’, or ‘compete for colour’, doucai was a porcelain enamelling technique perfected during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Xuande (Ming Dynasty, 15th century). This created wonderfully decorative pieces, true examples of which are rare but highly-prized by collectors.

The contrasts in that description came during the firing process. A blue and white undegrlaze was first applied to the porcelain, when the pattern was sketched. Once this base had been treated in the kiln at high temperature, the previously outlined areas were filled with a variety of coloured enamels (typically red, yellow, green and aubergine). The porcelain was then fired again, at a lower temperature. The end result was a beautiful piece where the subtle underglaze and decorative overglaze appeared to compete for the observer’s attention.

Read moreWhat Is Doucai?