Asian Antiques Appraisals And Valuations

What Is Chinese Transitional Porcelain?

Transitional porcelain, also known as Jingdezhen porcelain, is a type of Chinese ceramic that was produced during the transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. This period was marked by civil war and political turmoil, and as a result, the traditional system of large-scale production for the imperial court collapsed. This led to the officials in charge of ceramic production turning to private customers, including foreign trading companies, Japanese merchants, and new domestic customers for their business. This shift in customer base led to significant changes in the style of porcelain being produced, most of which was painted in underglaze cobalt blue on white. A more free-form approach to painting was taken, influenced by other Chinese art forms, and woodblock illustrations were often used as inspiration. This style is characterized by its finely potted and painted pieces, with deep blue colors and intricate landscapes featuring figures and elements such as mountains, clouds, and the moon. The term “transitional” is usually applied to this style of porcelain, which was produced between 1620 and 1683, and continued to be produced in various forms after this period.

The Transitional period is considered to have started in 1620, under the late Ming dynasty, with the death of the Wanli Emperor, although the most characteristic style of this period probably began from around 1628. During the Wanli reign, ceramics produced under government sponsorship slowly decreased in quality until production itself was abandoned. The Manchu Qing dynasty took the capital in 1644 and for the many years of civil war and transition that followed, a variety of porcelain wares were created in private kilns for domestic use and export to client markets such as Japan.

The style of Transitional porcelain was influenced by the art and aesthetic standards of prominent painters of the time, such as Dong Qichang and Shen Shitong. Dong Qichang’s influence can be seen in the use of traditional Chinese motifs and elements in the designs, while Shen Shitong’s influence led to the introduction of western perspective in the art. The use of western perspective in Transitional porcelain was significant as it marked a departure from the traditional Chinese art forms and opened up new possibilities for ceramic production.

The Transitional period also saw a move away from the use of forced labor in ceramic production and towards waged employment. The reconstruction of the ceramic industry in Jingdezhen was under the control of the Qing Board of Works, and later, under the provincial administration. Under the Kangxi Emperor, the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen were reinstalled and organized production of court porcelain resumed by 1683. The use of the dynastic reign name on ceramics was officially forbidden in the 16th year of the reign of the Kangxi Emperor in the Qing dynasty (around 1677).

In conclusion, Transitional porcelain, also known as Jingdezhen porcelain, was a type of Chinese ceramic that was produced during the transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. This period was marked by political turmoil and civil war, which led to significant changes in the style and production of porcelain. The Transitional period saw the introduction of western perspective in ceramic art, and a shift away from forced labor towards waged employment. Transitional porcelain continues to be highly valued and sought after for its intricate designs and deep blue colors, and is considered an important part of Chinese ceramic history.


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