Chinese Antique Glossary – P

Pentad

A Buddhist group of five figures: a Buddha in the center, flanked by two Bodhisattvas and two disciples.

Parinirvana

The pose in sculpture that symbolizes the Buddha’s death and transcendence, reclining on his right side with his head pointing north. In Sri Lanka, there is a slightly different “sleeping pose” that is sometimes distinguished from the parinirvana itself.


Padmapani

“Lotus Bearer,” a form of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The lotus that he holds is a symbol of purity and salvation.

Paste

This term is sometimes used for the clay body of a ceramic object.

Porcelain

The generally accepted definition of porcelain is that of a white, vitrified, translucent ceramic, fired to a temperature of at least 1280oC. The body of most Chinese porcelain is made from a mixture of China clay and China stone, and the body and glaze are usually fired together in a single firing, forming an integrated body/glaze layer.

The origin of Chinese Porcelain can be traced back at least as far as the Eastern Han dynasty, when potters in Zhejiang province began to combine kaolin clay with high firing temperatures. Although superficially hard to recognize as such, these wares can still be classified as porcelain because of their chemical composition (kaolin, quartz) and their physical properties (hardness, impermeability, vitrification). There is a continuum of development between these early porcelains, Tang-dynasty sancai wares, Song dynasty Celadon Porcelains, and the thin, translucent, white “china” of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The boundaries between “true” porcelain and earlier porcelain, and between “true” celadon and earlier celadon, are actively debated by scholars.

Pottery
See ‘earthenware’.

Powder blue

Powder blue became popular on porcelains in the Kangxi reign. The cobalt blue was blown onto the surface of the unfired porcelain body through a tube with gauze over the end. The effect, when fired, was of a deep, finely mottled or soufflé blue. In some cases the blue covered the whole piece, in others panels were reserved in white and decorated with overglaze enamels in a second firing. The powder blue surface was often embellished with gold designs.