Jingdezhen, formerly spelt Ching Teh Chen and known as the "Ceramics Metropolis" of China, is a synonym for Chinese porcelain.
Variably called Xinping or Changnanzhen in history, it is situated in the northeastern part of Jiangxi Province in a small basin rich in fine kaolin, hemmed in by mountains which keep it supplied with firewood from their conifers. People there began to produce ceramics as early as 1,800 years ago in the Eastern Han Dynasty. In the Jingde Period (1004-1007), Emperor Zhenzong of the the Song Dynasty. decreed that Changnanzhen should produce the porcelain used by the imperial court, with each inscribed at the bottom "Made in the Reign of Jingde." From then on people began to call all chinaware bearing such inscriptions "porcelain of Jingdezhen."
The ceramic industry experienced further development at Jingdezhen during the Ming and Qing dynasties or from the 14th to the 19th century, when skills became perfected and the general quality more refined; government kilns were set up to cater exclusively to the need of the imperial house.
For over 2,000 years, Jingdezhen is known as the Porcelain Capital of the world. Originally known as Xinpin, its name was changed when Emperor Jingde (1004-1007) of the Southern Song dynasty, decreed all the pieces made for court to be marked 'made in the Jingde period’.
The porcelain industry experienced further development at Jingdezhen during the Ming and Qing dynasties, when skills became perfected and the quality refined; government kilns were set up to cater exclusively to the need of the imperial house.
Ceramics have been produced for over 1800 years in Jingdezhen, China. Emperor Zhenzong decreed that Changnanzhen, as the city was know then, should produce all of the porcelain used by the imperial court during the Jingde Period (1004-1007). The industry continued to develop there during the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. Today Jingdezhen is a recognized center of porcelain production. Although electric wheels and electric and gas kilns are used today in the factories, ancient throwing and decorating techniques and wood-fired kilns can be seen as well.
For centuries, the city has been considered to be China’s most important center for porcelain production. Ceramics were produced here as far back as the Han dynasty (206-220BC). The imperial porcelain was so exquisite that it was described as being "as white as jade, as bright as a mirror, as thin as paper, with a sound as clear as a bell".
Today, Jingdezhen remains a national center for porcelain production. The most famous types of porcelain from Jingdezhen are the blue and white porcelain, which has been produced since the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368AD) and the rice-patterned porcelain that was introduced in the Song dynasty. Jingdezhen, the ancient ceramics metropolis, has been regenerated with new vigor since the founding of New China. It now boasts a ceramic research institute and a ceramic museum in addition to five kaolin quarries, 15 porcelain factories, two porcelain machinery plants, one porcelain chemical plant, two refractory materials factories and dozens of porcelain processing works
Major Styles of Jingdezhen Porcelain
Yaobian vases feature a simple, natural shape combined with sophisticated colors. Their dominant purple-red glaze flows into cyan and moon white in a pattern that takes on a life of its own and enhances the beauty of the vase. Glazing the fired body of the vase multiple times, then baking at a low temperature creates such patterns. The copper, cobalt, titanium, manganese, and iron coloring elements combine to produce a variety of shades, mingling with the red glaze on the porcelain to create striking hues.
Celadon / Yingqing Porcelain
The production of monochromatic ceramics matured over several centuries in Northern China, achieving particular success with green-glazed or “celadon” pieces. These were developed as Ru, Guan, Ge, and Jingdezhen ware to a high level. The delicately lobed and rounded bodies of these porcelains reflect the mastery of the artisans from this period
Blue & White Underglaze Porcelain
Drawing the design with cobalt pigment onto the stoneware body, and painting over it with a transparent glaze creates the blue-white style, also known as “underglaze blue”. The piece is then fired at a high temperature. Blue-white porcelain was introduced during the Yuan Dynasty and has been continuously in production ever since, thanks to is bright colors, simple yet elegant patterns, and smooth glaze that never fades.
Wucai is a type of overglaze decoration. After firing the piece at a low temperature; red, green, yellow, blue, and purple enamels are applied to the white ware. Wucai has been popular since the early Qing Dynasty.
Docai Porcelains feature an unusual combination of exquisite patterns, color coordination, and well-executed color filling. It reached its height in the Yonzhen and Kangxi reigns during the Qing Dynasty. The blue-white color is first applied under the glaze. Then red, green, and yellow are filled over the glaze and the piece is fired at low temperatures.
Famille Rose was developed during the Kangxi reign of the Qing Dynasty, and is based on the Wucai and Docai styles. Famille rose porcelains feature complex, ornate patterns with a balanced tone, detailed drawing, and steady color.
Ming Plain Tri-colored Glazed Porcelain
During the Zhengde reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a type of colored-glazed porcelain featuring three major colors -- yellow, green and purple -- became very popular in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province. Owing to its plainness and neatness, as well as its simplicity and elegance, it was also given another name -- plain tri-colored porcelain, or "Susancai".
Plain tri-colored glazed porcelain refers to a kind of over-glaze decoration with yellow, green or purple as the dominant colors. The art was brought into being in the early Ming Dynasty and had flourished by the Zhengde reign. It was further developed during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when a special blue shade was added.
The making of plain tri-colored glazed porcelain in the Ming Dynasty consisted of two steps. First of all, drawings and patterns of various kinds were carved into the porcelain flan without a ceramic glaze, which was then fired at a high temperature. After that, drawings and patterns of various kinds were colored and fired at a low temperature. Except for the three major colors, white and black were also frequently employed. As a kind of porcelain, the plain tri-colored glazed porcelain is different from the tri-colored glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which is a low-melting glazed pottery.
Plain tri-colored glazed porcelain utensils from the Ming Dynasty include three-legged bowls and furnaces. By the time of Kangxi, plain tri-colored glazed porcelain prevailed. The products, which were usually vividly sculpted, included bowls, plates, stationeries and stoves. Sometimes, even the Kwan-yin Statues and incense burners employed this art, which was more exquisite and the base colors more varied, including yellow and green bases. There was also a tiger-skin tri-colored glazed porcelain, which was made by dappling yellow, green and purple. During the firing process, the porcelain would naturally form a pattern likening that of a tiger's coat.
Of all the tri-colored glazed porcelain, ink-base tri-colored porcelain, which became popular during Kangxi's reign, is the most exquisite and precious.