Chinese Ceramics

chinese ceramicsWhile most people today are aware of the increasingly important role that Chinese manufacturing plays in the world economy (it’s hard not to notice for anyone who just occasionally follows world news), many people may not know of China’s rich tradition in the art and manufacture of fine pottery going back thousands of years well into antiquity. The art of manufacturing Chinese ceramics has been around since at least 9,000 B.C., as some archeological evidence attests. Chinese ceramics have served many purposes, both as an art form, as well as for practical agricultural, architectural, and commercial purposes, ranging from simple pottery and the manufacturing of bricks and other construction materials to the fine Chinese porcelain wares that were handcrafted by the great masters for the use of the Chinese Imperial court.

During the Ming dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries when trade between China and Europe developed, Chinese porcelains became some of the biggest export products of the medieval Chinese economy, and ceramics manufacturers in China profited handsomely. Fine Chinese porcelain can vary in its exact material composition, especially since the different provinces of the vast Chinese mainland have different raw materials, but it generally includes some mix of kaolin (made out of the clay mineral kaolinite), pottery stone, as well as quartz and feldspar, two of the most common minerals in the Earth’s continental crust.

While modern China is well-known for its rapidly developing industrial manufacturing and mass production of various industrial and consumer goods, the art of manufacturing Chinese ceramics and porcelain wares still involves traditional handcrafting methods. The most valuable pieces of Chinese porcelain are, of course, painted and decorated by hand and are still a valuable commodity in the modern world.