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Oriental Pottery


									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

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

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

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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