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Cultural Factors and Foreign Influences Reflected in the Traditional Technology of Chinese Ceramics

Zhou Jiahua (CAS, Beijing)

Porcelain is one of the greatest inventions of ancient Chinese. Its production is not just the outcome of the advance of science and technology but also the fruit of artistic creation. Therefore, its development has been stamped with the brand of national culture besides the limitation of natural environment. However, as an important medium of cultural exchanges, its evolution has also been influenced by various foreign cultures.

The main region of China is one of the first areas to step into agricultural civilization. Living in a compact community, Chinese developed pottery in a relatively earlier period.

Due to their natural environment, Chinese ancestors are the first to distinguish porcelain clay and Kaolinite, and thus baked original porcelain in the fifteenth to tenth century before the Christian era. In the second century B.C., Chinese began to produce mature celadon. When they understood that ferrous minerals showed different colours as the temperature changed, black and white porcelain also emerged soon afterwards.

Prior to the thirteenth, Chinese had paid attention to the decorative value of porcelains and attached more importance to glaze rather than roughcast. Especially, they aimed at imitating jade articles since Chinese took jade objects as auspicious sign. This is why blue glazed porcelain became the most popular and the most influential glazed porcelain with the colour of ferrous minerals under high-temperature. Famille blue glazed porcelain in Longquan Kiln is just the masterpiece of this pursuit.

According to the folk custom of the Han nationality, white is considered as the colour of obsequies. This is one of the reasons why white porcelain was left out in the cold at an earlier stage.

The new trails of coloured porcelain promoted the development of white porcelain and the improvement of the quality of porcelain. From the fourteenth to fifteenth century on, the prescriptions for making porcelain and painting glaze have been reformed considerably.

Chinese craftsmen were also good at drawing nutrients from western technology, as reflected in the blue dyestuff used in the famous Chinese blue and white porcelain. Moreover, Chinese enamel coloured porcelain directly adopted various European dyestuffs which contained B2O3 and As2O3, and thus quite different from Chinese traditional five-coloured porcelain.

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