Chinese Porcelain

Chinese porcelain, otherwise known as China, is a type of pottery that was developed in China during the dynastic periods. Chinese porcelain comes in many colors and many shapes. The term porcelain though, lacks a universal definition, but many experts believe that to be considered true porcelain, the clay must be fired at an extremely high temperature, creating a strong glass-like material.

History of Chinese porcelain
The famous blue and white underglaze, seen on this vase, was perfected during the Ming dynasty.
The famous blue and white underglaze, seen on this vase, was perfected during the Ming dynasty.

Throughout its history, Chinese poreclain has developed from simple shapes to extravagant works of art. The history of porcelain may have began around the year 9000BC, in a location known as the Xianran cave. This early pottery, found in shards along the cave floor, can barerly be considered true oriental porcelain because of the clay and heat it was created by. It is believed that the first true porcelain originated in or before the Tang Dynasty. These techniques were believed to have been developed from the manufacture of stoneware. Because of the pottery's popularity, porcelain was made into tea sets, dinnerware, toys, musical instruments, and much more. The Song dynasty is considered the peak time for porcelain. Emperors of that era established royal factories that produced porcelain. The signature blue and white underglaze was not fully perfected until the Ming dynasty. New techniques, such as painting over a glaze with enamel colors, also became popular at this time. Porcelain continued to develop during the Qing dynasty. The chinese of the Qing dynasty exported there beautiful porcelain objects to far off places such as Europe. Today, the art of porcelain is still thriving. Avid collectors of porcelain amass beautiful works of art that date from the pottery's early days, to the modern array of colors. Due to its rich history and talented artists, Jingdezhan, a city located in China's Jiangxi provence, is considered the "Porcelain Capital" of China.

Symbolism in China
Marks and Symbols on porcelian were very important to China at the time because it could tell you roughly the time it was made. While looking at the bottom, sides, or insides of the piece of extravegant work of art the symbols and drawings on the porcelian indicated what time in history it was made. Whether the marks were showing a rough period of time or a religous leader it was an easy say to say that piece of porcelian is from the time when that subject was big. In determining the age of porcelain marks that appeared to be made with a rubber stamp or were written in english are considered to be brand new. Older marks are identified by several characteristics. The color of the ink, and the details of the marks themselves. Marks made with blue ink are the oldest, those made with red ink are newer. Marks that are raised up are considered rare and the oldest, although this characteristics has been used by forgers to make newer porcelain to appear older and rarer. This is also important today for scientist to determine if the work was chinese or japanese. It is not easy for just anybody to decide whether the porcelain is from china or Japan but for scientists it is very important. Japanese characters tended to be of different sizes and appeared as if an artist had drawn them like a signature. This is opposed to more picture like qualities and big drawings and designs done on Chinese porcelain. During the Kangxi period other marks other than than the reign title became common, such as the names of places they were made for, they were called Hall Marks. For the common Chinese people porcelain was almost always marked but looking back at the 18th century exports to the west most porcelain was never marked. Along with a piece of porcelain's glaze, shape or decorations and other distinctions it made it completely impossible not to assign a piece to its correct period. Even though the marks were very important to figure out its age and interesting to look at its one of the last things to look at when determining a piece's authenticity
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Creating Porcelain
The ingredients in Chinese porcelain differs depending on who and how it is being produced. The two most common types of ceramics, earthenware and stoneware is made from a single ingredient which is a natural clay. They clay is then fired and in most cases covered in a glaze to make it shine. earthenware is fired at a low temperature and produces a pourous surface. When it's fired at a high temperature, it creates stoneware which is a hard, heavy non-pourous surface. Unlike earthenware and stoneware, porcelain contains two ingredients, kaolin and petuntse. Kaolin is a pure white clay that forms when feldspar (a mineral) breaks down. Petunste is made from feldspar which is only found in China. This mineral is ground down into a fine powder and then mixed with the kaolin. This is then fired at high, extreme degrees of heat which creates a natural glass. Like ceramics, there are more than one type. For porcelain, there are three main kinds; hard-paste porcelain, soft-paste porcelain and bone china. Hard-paste porcelain is also referred to as true porcelain or natural porcelain. Most porcelain makers aim to create hard-porcelain. It resists melting better therefore it can be fired at a higher temperature which causes the body and glaze to become one. When a piece of hard-paste porcelain is broken, it is very hard to distinguish the body from the glaze. The ratio between kaolin to petunste in hard-porcelain differs. When the percentage of kaolin is high, the porcelain is considered "severe." Most collectors prefer "mild" porcelain which has a lower percentage of kaolin. Soft-paste porcelain is also called artificial porcelain because it was first created in Europe to imitate the Chinese hard-paste porcelain. Experimenters tried using various ingredients to create the same hard, white substance. Eventually, they mixed clay and glass-like substances to make soft-paste porcelain. It fires at a lower temperature leaving it somewhat pourous. If you were to break a piece of soft-paste porcelain, you would find a grainy body covered in a glass layer of glaze. Although it is not real Chinese porcelain, some collectors prefer its creamy color over white porcelain. The last type of porcelain is bone china. English porcelain makers added bone ash (burned animal bones) to the mix of kaolin and petunste. It may not be as "true" as porcelain but bone china is more durable than soft-paste porcelain.
external image ClayKaolinWhite.jpg This is a picture of kaolin, which is mixed with petunste.

Uses/Evolution of Porcelain
Early Chinese porcelain was used in the home for storing and holding food. People made plates, bowls and other household items out of porcelain and eventually it was used for decorations. It was also used to make toys, musical instruments and stationary. Porcelain became very desirable because it was strong and druable so it was harder to break than other ceramics that had been previously used. Porcelain was also desired by people outside of China so it was traded along the Silk Road. When exposed to different cultures, the uses of it expanded and it started to get used for things other than decorations and food storage. Today, the uses of porcelain are inifinate and the traditions of using it as decoration and food storage still exist today. One of the most common cosmetic dentistry procedures in the US is getting porcelian veneers, which are thin shells of porcelain that are bound onto the teeth to improve the look of the teeth. Veneers are used to repair discolored, misaligned, worn or chipped teeth. In building houses, porcelain is used in tile's for flooring, walls and showers and baths. It makes good tile because it is so strong and durable that it doesn't chip as easily as some other ceramics so it is good for building with. Porcelain is also used in computer circutry because it is a good conductor and it's used in chemical waste storage. Many other new and old technologies have been made from porcelain and it is likely that it will be used in many inventions in the future. Without Chinese porcelain, many things that we consider to be staples in life would be different.
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  • Archaeo-magnetic dating- non-destructive dating method for ceramic finds
  • Armorial porcelain- any porcelain decorated with heraldic motifs; bears the families coat of arms
  • Asbolite- impure colbolt ore used by chinese potters and added to red clay ferric magnese etc.
  • Aubergine- name of the purple enamel color that was used by the Chinese
  • Baidunzi (small white bricks)- believed to be the main ingrediant in Chinese porcelain
  • Flat base- bottom portion of a vessal, most common form of base used in China
  • Enamels-A vitreous, usually opaque, protective or decorative coating baked on metal, glass, or ceramic ware.

^T'zu && T'ao porcelain. Can also find history < has information on symbols, glossary terms, and marks used during the dynasties
^ i didnt really look at the site...i was just looking for sites this morning
^history of porcelain..types of porcelain
^ for marks and symbols
^ this site is just for the deffinition of enamelsn
^making porcelain - colors used and how the porcelain was fired
^"stuff" in porcelain..what its made of && diff. types of kilns. description
^ has what porcelain was used for, types of kilns, and history