Chinese Antique Glossary – F


Literal translation: ‘regulated decoration’. This style of decoration on stonewares or porcelains resembles that of cloisonné metalwork. On fahua-decorated ceramics thin, raised slip lines are used to outline areas of the decoration, and incising is used to give texture to certain motifs. The unglazed porcelain object is fired and then enamels are applied to the ground and to the individual areas created by the slip lines. The raised slip lines serve to inhibit enamels of different colors from flowing into each other. On stoneware pieces decorated in fahua style, a white slip coating is applied in order to provide a good surface onto which the enamels can be applied. The fahua style of decoration appears to have first been developed on stonewares made in Shanxi province during the Yuan dynasty. The earliest are from the Xuande reign (1426-35).


Literal translation: ‘foreign colors’. Although still a topic of scholarly debate, the term falangcai is usually applied to the particularly fine enameled porcelains decorated in the imperial ateliers of the palace in Beijing using the fully-developed famille rose/fencai palette. The application of the enamels on these porcelains is very sophisticated and the pictorial decoration is often accompanied by a calligraphic inscription in black enamel and imitations of seals in pink enamel. In the past such enamels have also been known by the name Guyuexuan (Ancient Moon Studio).

Famille jaune

This is a variant of the famille verte enamel palette in which the ground is colored with yellow enamel.

Famille noire

This is a variant of the famille verte enamel palette in which the ground is colored black. It should be noted that the ground of pieces made in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) has a black under-enamel covered with a pale transparent green enamel. Those of later date usually have a ground of glossy black enamel.

Famille rose

This enamel palette was developed for use on porcelain in the first quarter of the 18th century. The majority of the enamels are opaque or semi-opaque and do not flow when fired. The palette takes its name from the rose-coloured enamel, which derives its color from colloidal gold. Other significant colours in this palette are opaque yellow and opaque white. In China this palette is known as fencai (powder colors). The terms famille rose and famille verte were coined by Jacquemart and Le Blant in the mid-19th century.

Famille verte

This enamel palette was developed for use on porcelain in the second half of the 17th century. The majority of the enamels are transparent, and flow somewhat when fired. The exceptions are the overglaze iron red enamel and the under-enamel black, both of which are opaque and do not flow. The palette takes its name from the variety of clear greens which are characteristic of its style. Gold is often used to highlight the designs on famille verte-decorated porcelains.

Five Dynasties

907-960 and comprising:

Later Liang, 907-923
Later Tang, 923-936
Later Jin, 936-946
Later Han, 947-950
Later Zhou, 951-960

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