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The Age of Celadon

The age of clayware and earthenware

    China's early ceramic history is best documented by its Neolithic-era red ware which was created out of red clay along the Yellow River. They later developed a shiny black pottery, a two-colored ware with green and brown glazes and finally three-colored ware in the late 7th century.
    Combed earthenware is some of the earliest Korean pottery but was replaced by a stronger plain earthenware during the Bronze Age. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. new techniques were introduced that allowed the Koreans to produce grayish-blue stoneware which was common during the Three Kingdoms period (Shilla, Paekche, Koguryo). Ash ware and lead-glazed wares also were briefly produced in Korea but were soon replaced by the introduction of celadon from China.
    Japan's earliest pottery, Jomon earthenware, is believed to have been made as early as 12,000 years ago. It was followed by Yayoi earthenware and the red Haji ware of the Kofun period. Japan also produced Sue ware which was used primarily as storage vessels, up through the 11th century.
    The cultures of the Southeast Asian region influenced each other greatly due to their proximity and Vietnam especially, seemed to inherit a number of ceramic traditions from its neighbor, China. Gray ware similar to that produced by the Chinese Han dynasty, was made in Vietnam at the same time it was produced in China, and by the 6th century Vietnam was producing a celadon-like type of ash-glazed ware of their own. By the 10th century they had developed their own unique style of ceramics which included a rough celadon, that was based on the the earlier influences of China. Thailand also produced a number of different styles of earthenware and eventually adopted the production of celadon from China.

Jar with Chicken Head
Black Earthenware
Eastern Jin Dynasty - China
The National Palace Museum, Beijing
Jar with Pointed Bottom
Earthenware with Comb-pattern
Neolithic Age - Korea
Kyung-Hee University Museum
Middle Jomon Period - Japan
The Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum

The age of celadon

    Since the invention of ceramics by man in the Neolithic Age, and for the last 8000 years, man strove to develop the art of ceramic production and thereby create stronger, more useful forms that possessed aesthetic beauty. During the 7th century celadon appeared in China and dominated the world of ceramics for the next 700 years. Celadon first appeared in various parts of China in the form of early celadon-like ceramics, that often used ash glazes, and was finally put into large scale production for utensils and pottery during the 7th Century throughout China.
    During the 9th Century, its production then spread to Korea, who had been importing the Chinese celadon and, at first, emulated both the techniques and styles the Chinese had used, and later developed styles and techniques of their own. The quality of the Korean celadon, according to many experts, both Korean and Chinese, came to surpass that of even the Chinese celadon that it was derived from.
    Japan didn't experience a celadon culture, but relied on imported Chinese and Korean products. They did however, produce several types of earthenware and ash-glazed ware which were used for everyday utensils.

Octagonal Bottle
Tang Dynasty, Yue Ware - China
The National Palace Museum, Beijing
Celadon with Inlaid Chrysanthemum and Butterfly Design
Koryo Dynasty, 12th Century - Korea
The Ho-Rim Museum
Jar with Four Handles
Stoneware with Ash glaze and Stamped Floral Patterns
Kamakura Period, 13th Century, Seto Ware - Japan
The Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum

    Vietnam, who had been under Chinese rule, was the third country to adopt, and begin the production of celadon wares during the 13th Century, though their celadon did not possess the rich green colors of the Chinese or Korean products.
    Thailand also produced celadon with beautiful green tones of which the fine examples can be found from the 15th Century.

Celadon with Carved Flower Design
Vietnam, 13-14th Century
The Machida Municipal Museum
Celadon with Carved Lotus Design
Thailand, 15th Century, Si-Satchanalai Ware
The Machida Municipal Museum

The age of white porcelain

    White porcelain required a more highly advanced technique to make than celadon but was both stronger and therefore, more practical for everyday use. High quality white porcelain, very much like that we still use today, was invented in the Jingdezhen kiln in China and began to replace celadon as the dominant ceramic in the middle of the 14th century. China enjoyed a monopoly on the production of white porcelain for some time and exported their high quality wares throughout Asia. They later used the brilliant white background on the wares as the perfect backdrop for designs of brilliant blue patterns that are still popular on Chinese ceramics today. Korea quickly adopted the Chinese techniques and were producing their own white porcelain by the end of the 14th century.
    The Korean white porcelain differed in design from the Chinese wares in that the elaborate decoration techniques used by the Chinese were never practiced, and the resulting wares had a simpler, more elegant look. The quality of Korean white porcelain advanced quickly after its introduction and was soon of a high enough quality that it was sent as a gift to the Ming Imperial Household in 1425.
    Japan, using Korean artisans captured during the Japanese invasions, created a kiln in the latter half of the 16th century and began to produce white porcelain of their own. In the 1660's, through trade with the Dutch East India Company, they exported their Kakiemon style of white porcelain throughout Europe where it was highly esteemed.

    Influenced by their close proximity to China, Vietnam also began to produce white porcelain, actually quite some time before Japan, in the middle of the 15th century.
    Thailand also produced a white ceramic ware that was decorated with a a brown glaze and was exported throughout Asia.
    Europe, specifically Meissen, Germany, began to produce white porcelain for the first time in the early 18th century.

Blue and White Porceladin with a Painting of a Person Visiting His Freind
Ming Dynasty, Tienchun
The National Palace Museum, Beijing
White Porcelain
Chosun Dynasty, 15th Century
The National Museum of Korea, Seoul
Foliated Plate
Porcelain with Dragon and Tiger in Overglaze Enamels
Middle Edo Period, 17-18th Century, Arita Ware - Kakeimon Style
The Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum
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