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Important Chinese Porcelain

Porcelain originated in China. Although proto-porcelain wares exist dating from the Shang Dynasty, by the Eastern Han Dynasty period glazed ceramic wares had developed into porcelain. Porcelain manufactured during the Tang Dynasty was exported to the Islamic world, where it was highly prized. Early porcelain of this type includes the tri-color glazed porcelain, or sancai wares. The exact dividing line between proto-porcelain and porcelain wares is not a clear one. Porcelain items in the sense that we know them today, could be found in the Tang Dynasty, and archaeological finds have pushed the dates back to as early as the Han Dynasty. By the Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty, porcelain had become widely produced.

Eventually, porcelain and the expertise required to create it began to spread into other areas of East Asia. During the Song Dynasty, artistry and production had reached new heights. The manufacture of porcelain became highly organized and the kiln sites, those excavated from this period, could fire as many as 25,000 wares. While Xing Ware is regarded as among the greatest of the Tang porcelain kilns, Ding Ware became the premier porcelain of Song Dynasty. By the Ming Dynasty, porcelain art was being exported to Europe. Some of the most well-known Chinese porcelain art styles arrived in Europe during this era, such as the coveted blue and white wares. The Ming Dynasty controlled much of the porcelain trade, which were further expanded to all over Asia, Africa and Europe through the Silk Road.

Some porcelain were much more highly valued than others in imperial China. We can identify the most valued types by their association with the court, either as tribute offerings, or as products of kilns under imperial supervision. One of the most well-known examples are the Jingdezhen porcelain. During the Ming dynasty, Jingdezhen porcelain become a matter for imperial pride.

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