In 1743, T’ang Ying, overseer of the Jiangxi Imperial kilns, wrote that “Both round ware and vases of white porcelain are painted in enamel colours in a style imitated from Western foreigners, which is consequently called Yang-ts’ai, or ‘foreign colouring.'”
Yang-ts’ai ceramics feature Western shading and perspective techniques, white pigment to show light patterns on leaf and flower motifs, and Western-style floral formations.
T’ang Ying is given much of the credit for taking Western influences and melding them with the themes and style of traditional Chinese art. This exceptional craftsman also introduced the sgraffiato technique, a sophisticated method of ceramic engraving.
Yang-ts’ai ceramics were made during the reign of Emperor Ch’ien-lung, who ruled from 1735 to 1796, the sixth Emperor of the Qing dynasty. His reign saw a flowering of technical innovation and artistic creativity, with increasingly sophisticated and ornate porcelain pieces commissioned directly by the Imperial court.
Yang-ts’ai porcelain used bright colours to create stunning pieces in various forms including round, bulbous and square vases. Other pieces such as rice bowls, teacups and plates were made for everyday use at the Imperial court.
The pieces were often decorated with landscapes, flowers, cloud designs and geometric patterns. These were heavily influenced by contemporary Imperial court painters, as well as T’ang and Sung dynasty flower paintings. Decorative motifs are often superimposed on densely brocaded patterns, creating a three-dimensional surface effect. Yang-ts’ai porcelain also features poetry written by Emperor Ch’ien-lung himself.
As Ch’ien-lung’s reign progressed, T’ang Ying’s artistry and creativity increased. Innovations such as vases with revolving parts, openwork carving and designs with multiple layers were all introduced. These magnificent Yang-ts’ai pieces were hailed as the ‘work of the gods’.