Asian Antiques Appraisals And Valuations

Exploring the Rich History of Chinese Porcelain Pillows

A white porcelain pillow in the shape of an infant from the Northern Song Dynasty.

Throughout history, pillows have undergone significant changes, evolving from wooden and porcelain versions to the soft, comfortable goose down pillows we see today. However, in ancient China, porcelain pillows were among the most well-preserved examples of pillows.

During ancient China, pillows were mainly placed under the neck instead of the head, and hard pillows were used to maintain hairstyles and prevent dishevelment. Porcelain pillows, in particular, gained popularity during the Sui Dynasty (581-618), with the first discovered model being a box-shaped design unearthed from the tomb of an official named Zhang Sheng.

Porcelain pillows became more versatile during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), being used as wrist cushions during pulse checks and arm support for writers. They were also used as sleeping aids for travelers, and their production increased in size and scale during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The Northern Song Dynasty produced one of the most representative works of the era: a white porcelain pillow shaped like an infant. Its smooth texture and slightly yellow coloring made it an exceptional piece of craftsmanship, and it is now preserved at the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Although restrictions during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) led to the decline of porcelain pillows, they remained fashionable, with blue-and-white porcelain pillows from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi featuring intricate carvings of architectural and theatrical elements. However, during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, porcelain pillows faded in popularity as softer pillows became more prevalent.

In the 1950s and 1960s, porcelain pillows were still produced in North China, but they eventually disappeared from people’s daily lives. Nonetheless, these pillows condensed the folk customs and interests of various eras and showcased the highest level of craftsmanship during their time.

Chinese Antique Valuations And Appraisals

Do you own a piece of Chinese porcelain or an oriental work of art that you would like to know more about, such as age, history and value?

Then you should really consider using our Chinese Antique Valuation Service as the last thing you want to do is risk under selling the piece due to lack of knowledge or ill gotten advice.