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Decorative Designs in Chinese Art 中国文物的纹饰

Porcelain 瓷器 Early Period 早期

Early Period 早期

References differ on the exact time of origin. [Li Li, 2004] provides a range from the Shang (c. 1700 to 1045 BCE) to the Zhou (1045—221 BCE). [Fang 2010] gives the Han Dynasty. The Shanghai Museum has several artifacts from the Spring and Autumn Period (770—476 BCE) and the Warring States Period (445—221 BCE) that it labels as Celadon. Two of those are shown below.

ripples / a ripple pattern
青釉水波纹三系 春秋公元前770〜475上海出土 上海博物馆 Celadon Tripod Ding with Ripple Patterns Spring and Autumn Period (771—445 BCE). Excavated from Qingpu County, Shanghai Shanghai Museum

There are several distinguishing characteristics of porcelain compared with other pottery:

  1. Lower iron oxide and increase content aluminum oxide so that the body can be white
  2. Firing temperature of at least 1,200 degrees Celsius
  3. Use of glaze

Glaze was usually made from quartz, feldspar, and clay. It first appeared in the Shang but did not become widespread until later. The artifacts above and below, produced in the Spring and Autumn Period, probably meet these criteria. Most early porcelain, like these items, has been discovered along the lower reaches of the Yantze and the Southern Chinese coast.

ripples / a ripple pattern
青釉弦纹 战国公元前475〜221上海博物馆 Celadon Cup with String Patterns Warring States Period (445—221 BCE), Shanghai Museum

Celadon 青釉 is a term that refers to pottery with a green glaze. It orginated in Zhejiang province in China. The celadon jar below is a celadon artifact from the Three Kingdoms period (222—280 CE).

Celadon jar with piled figurines
青釉堆塑人物 三国公元222〜280 上海博物馆 Celadon jar with piled figurines Three Kingdoms Period (Wu) (222—280 CE). Shanghai Museum

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