China was the first country in the world to produce porcelain. Pottery production had already begun 10,000 years ago, while as early as 3,000 years ago in the Shang Dynasty, people began to fire primitive celadon. By the Eastern Han Dynasty in the second century AD, especially during the period of the Three Kingdoms, Jin Dynasties, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, the firing of celadon had reached a very high level.
In the Tang Dynasty, the porcelain industry developed at full speed, forming two major porcelain kiln systems represented by the Yue Kiln in the south and the Xing Kiln in the north. The Song Dynasty was the peak of the development of Chinese porcelain art. There were numerous kilns producing a wide variety of specimens, with exquisite craftsmanship and abundant techniques. Among them were five famous kilns, namely the Ru Kiln, Guan Kiln, Ge Kiln, Ding Kiln and Jun Kiln. There were also a number of large kiln systems, such as the Cizhou Kiln and Yaozhou Kiln in the north and the Longquan Kiln and Jingdezhen Kiln in the south. These kilns displayed distinctive regional characteristics and extremely advanced craftsmanship, and they accomplished unprecedented artistic achievements.
During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the porcelain industry became more thriving and prosperous. The industry’s most outstanding achievement in the Yuan Dynasty was the successful firing of varieties of underglaze blue and white porcelain and underglaze red porcelain. The establishment of the Imperial Kiln in Jingdezhen during the Ming and Qing dynasties created the conditions necessary for the firing of a wide variety of porcelain with various shapes, colorful glazes and exquisite patterns. The art of painted porcelain had developed by leaps and bounds, with dozens of varieties. In the Ming Dynasty, artisans also created and fired the blue and white overglaze color and doucai (contrasting color) porcelain, in addition to the widely recognized Yongxuan blue and white porcelain. The Qing Dynasty not only created enamel and famille rose porcelain but also represented the heyday of color glaze development. It also marked a new level of Chinese porcelain production and established a new era in the history of Chinese porcelain development.
Ancient Chinese porcelain can be broadly divided into two major categories according to the glaze color and decoration: color glazed porcelain and painted porcelain. The latter can be roughly divided into underglaze colored porcelain and overglaze colored porcelain. The exhibition Ancient Chinese Porcelain Art displays the most representative porcelain selected from the collections of our museum. It is divided into three sections: “The art of color glazed porcelain,” “The art of underglaze colored porcelain” and “The art of overglaze porcelain.”