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The first Oriental pottery making in China was contemporary with the civilization of Rome. It is one of the oldest of the arts of the Far East and shows a consistent development up to the nineteenth century of our era. The cultural background of China, as well as knowledge of the customs, rituals and religions, should be understood to fully appreciate this art and what it signifies. The symbolism of Chinese decoration is inexhaustible. There is a story wrapped up in every piece of ornament, understandable only to the student of this art. A bundle of books, for instance, is emblematic of scholarship. Ribbons tied in bow-knots on books, wood frames, and baskets of flowers, give to these emblems a religious character. The dragon, a monster of great significance, is emblematic of divine power. The Chinese are by nature fond of flowers and all natural beauty. The styles of the potter's art in China are designated by the names of the reigning dynasties, of which the last two, the Ming and Ch'ing, are the most important to the decorator of today because they are practically the only styles of which examples are still available to the general public. The earlier productions are found only in museums or in valuable private collections. The important dynasties in which pottery and porcelains were produced are as follows: 960-1127: Northern Sung: Literature and printing. 1127-1280: Southern Sung: Golden Age of landscape painting and pottery. Earliest porcelains made to imitate bronze form. 1280-1368: Yuan-Mongol: Follows tradition. 1368-1643: Ming: Art follows past models especially T'ang Dynasty. 1644-1851: Ch'ing: Manchu emperors - Great age of porcelains, jades, and cut stones. The two last Chinese dynasties were those that influenced the western art to a great extent in the eighteenth century. These two are known as the Ming (1368-1643) and Ch'ing (1644-1851). During the Ming dynasty all the arts were greatly encouraged. In the making of porcelain a great variety of colors usedplain colored glazes, which up to this time furnished the chief decoration on engraved picture frames, became less popular as monochrome pattern decorations were developed. This was the period of the blue and white porcelains, in which flower patterns in several shades of blue were placed on a cream colored field and the whole covered with a glaze of a very faint bluish tinge. Occasionally the colors were reversed and white flowers were placed on a blue background. Toward the end of the Ming period, we find additional variety in the technique of color decoration and of patterns, and the beginning of polychrome decoration. In the Ch'ing dynasty the emperors, K'ang Hsi (1662-1722) and his grandson Ch'ien Lung (1736-1795), took a tremendous interest in the making of porcelain, and an extensive trade was carried on with European countries. The potters of this time reached their greatest height in technical skill. A great variety of porcelains were made, including the already discussed blue and white pattern, the most typical of which was the familiar hawthorn jar, showing the hawthorn blossom on a background that imitated a pattern of crackled ice. The design symbolized the passing of winter and the coming of spring. These jars were presented as gifts along with on the Chinese New Year's day, which occurred a little later in the spring than ours. They were filled with candy, tea or preserved ginger. Polychrome decoration of enamel colors of various delicate shades painted on the original glazed porcelain picture frames resulted in the most glorious creations. The enamel paints were applied to the surface of the original glazed piece and made more permanent by means of re-firing at a temperature lower than the original firing, as the enamel colors could not stand the high degree of heat necessary for firing the body of the piece itself. The potters at this period created the porcelains known to us in the French terms of "Famille Noire," "Famille Verte," and the "Famille Hose," which are used to designate the porcelains with the enameled colored decorations applied, the predominating background colors being, respectively, black, green, and rose. Such a variety of decorative designs and amazing colors have never been equaled, and the decorations include a great variety of flower patterns in their natural colorings placed on the background colors described above. Other patterns were made showing scenes of domestic life, court scenes, historical and mythological subjects, the familiar dragon and phoenix bird of the most gorgeous plumage, landscapes, sacred mountains, butterflies, insects, the Buddhist emblems and many others too numerous to mention.
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