Porcelain, or white gold, is so typical of China that in England it’s simply called china. There is no easy istinction between ceramic and china. The earliest known container made of china was found in a tomb of the sixth century A.D. China was first produced in large quantities in the seventh century, and later, notably, during the Song dynasty (960–1280) when it acquired a remarkable rough, rustic beauty which many connoisseurs prefer to works of later periods.
    Blue decoration under glaze was particularly popular, and remained so during following dynasties; blue of the south and white of the north. Its quality varied according to the availability of its basic component, cobalt, which was imported from the north, if and when the Mongols and Tartars allowed it to pass through.
There was, of course, no problem with supply during the reign of the Mongol or Yuan dynasty sovereigns (1279–1368). During the Qing dynasty 1644–1911), which renewed the reign of the »barbarians of the north«, cobalt was again easily available and the production of china was perfected and industrialised.
Meanwhile Boettger reinvented the process in Europe in 1709 and numerous production centres were set up as knowledge spread through early industrial espionage.
In China the decorative effect of blue and white underglaze remains most popular even today. In addition to blue, copper-red and ironred appeared in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the colourhappy nineteenth century, polychrome enamel also appeared, employing gold decoration to accentuate effects. Jingdezhen ware usually uses five colours for decoration (wucai), with blue under-glaze and enamels applied over the glaze. Its name derives from the imperial factory, which had 3,000 kilns, in the south Chinese province of Jiangxi. Multicoloured china with a predominant green is referred to as famille verte in the west. Famille rose is dominated by a pale gleam of pink. Pieces from the famille noire and famille jaune are dominated, as their names suggest, by black and yellow. Blanc de chine, white porcelain with a transparent glaze, was also highly valued.
     So-called Imari ware is a special case. This was originally produced in Japan and exported via the northern Japanese harbour, Imari. The use of blue, red, green and gold decorations on a white background was so popular in Europe and demand was so great that, for once, the Chinese imitated the Japanese and produced Imari ware during the Edo period (1615–1868),when Japan interrupted foreign trade
because the Shoguns did not want contact with outsiders.
     Only a few pieces of especially delicate eggshell china have survived the troubled times of Chinese history. The secret of the production of these astonishingly thinsided pieces was passed on through generations from father to son, but not to daughters, to ensure that it wasn’t spread outside the family through marriage.

the secret was kept, to a degree, under the control of the family.
     Monochrome celadon colourings are worth special mention. This olive green porcelain came into fashion around the end of the first millennium, by the western calendar. It was produced by reducing the oxygen supply during firing. Celadon ware was normally not decorated, the beautiful colour of the glaze being considered sufficient effect. The colour was reminiscent of jade and corresponded to the taste of the period. Of greater importance, celadon vessels were reputed to indicate whether food or drink they contained was poisoned and even to be able to render the poison harmless. Rulers, generals and mandarins were constantly in danger.
Thus celadon was highly appreciated, together with food-tasters and abstinence.
Cobweb-like fissures (craquelé) were often caused by the uneven contraction of the porcelain body and the glaze. This effect was later deliberately created by artificial means. Occasionally a contrasting colour to that of the glaze was rubbed in to emphasise the craquelé.
    Fig. 1 Shows a particularly expressive portrait of a fisherman, painted in under glaze blue on porcelain, 5 cm.
    Fig. 2 Celadon snuff bottle with an erotic scene, 6 cm.

Dr. Klaus G. Muller

And if a father had no son, he often searched for a son-in-law as apprentice, whom he then entrusted with the know-how of the precise mixture of kaolin, quartz, feldspar and other secret substances. In order to keep the young man from running away with the secret, the father explained only to his daughter how to mix the colours and how to fire the oven. Thus only the two spouses together were able to produce the ware and

More articles by Dr. Klaus G. Muller


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