All About The blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty

During the producing process of the porcelain, the artisans from Yuan Dynasty created many unique techniques of decorating the porcelain. Most of the decorating pigments were imported cobalt-blue pigments. When producing the porcelain bodies and decorations, the artisans expressed multi-spaced emotions and thoughts, and integrated ordinary lives into art field. Both the shapes and decorations of the porcelain are historical, cultural and art treasure, enriching the contemporaries’ lives and describing the complex situations they encountered. It has become a fashion to introduce the artisans’ fantasy and real lives, including their thoughts, feelings and living environments, to the present generation and the further ones.

  1. Storage sites and kiln relics of the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty


  1. Several storage sites of the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty have been discovered. The following are these storage sites:

Baoding City, Hebei Province in 1964 (now stored in Hebei Museum); Dinxing County, Hebei Province in 1972 (now stored in Hebei Province Institute of Cultural Relics); Taoyuan County and Li County, Changde City, Hunan Province in 1956 (now stored in Hunan Provincial Museum and National Museum of China); Changwu County, Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province in 1958 (now stored in Changwu Cultural Protection Site); Jining City, Inner Mongolia in 2003; Linxi County, Inner Mongolia in 1992 (now stored in Linxi Cultural Relic Administration); Chifeng County, Inner Mongolia in 1978; Baoheshaoxiang, Hohhot City, Inner Mongolia in 1980; Site of Xanadu, Beijing in 1970 (now stored in Beijing Cultural Relic Administrative of Xanadu Archeological Team and in Institute of Archeology, Chinese Academy of Science); Gaoan County, Jiangxi Province in 1980 (now stored in Gaoan Museum); Boyang County, Jiangxi Province in 1981 (Gu Xiang Bo Ling article, many are stored by private collectors); Pingxiang City, Jizhou, Jiujiang, Poyang and Fengcheng in Jiangxi Province, Nanjing and Piaoshui in Jiangsu Province, and Changde in Hunan Province in 1985; Hangzhou City and Jiangshan in Zhejiang Province and Yuxi in Yunnan Province in 1987; Santai City, Sichuan Province in 1992; She County, Anhui Province in 1982 (now stored in Museum of She County); Huocheng County, Ili, Xinjiang Province in 1976 (now stored in Xingjiang Provincial Museum); Dantu County, Jiangsu Province in 1962 (now stored in Zhenjiang Museum); Jintan County, Jiangsu Province in 1966 (now stored in Zhenjiang Museum).

  1. The following are the main kiln relics:

Kilns of the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty are not only in Jingdezhen, Zhushan, Luomaqiao and Hutian in Jiangxi Province, but also in Dingzhou Kiln, Cizhou Kiln, Jizhou Kiln, Tangcheng in Yangzhou and Xichi Kiln in Hubei. These kilns could produce elegant and delicate porcelain with various features of the glaze, clay, shapes and decorations.

  1. Appraisal and appreciation of the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty


In terms of appraisals of the porcelain, connoisseurs must judge from the porcelain wares. Connoisseurs must possess basic concepts of the porcelain. The process from having fundamental knowledge to obtaining new discovery and confirming data depends on one’s interest and luck. When investigating the porcelain wares, we should construct classification system, analyze with history, politics, customs and culture, set standards of the porcelain, propose pioneer points of view, as well as expand the theories of the porcelain with multiple rank classification. The investigation, which is important in dating the porcelain, is a long-term work, relying on experience accumulation. The investigation needs to include multi-level experiences and new information, as well as to understand the artisans’ crafts and strict standards. If the connoisseurs have never seen a real porcelain ware, how can they appraise? Ordinary collectors often conduct their own private research of the porcelain. They seldom share their sources and knowledge publicly, fearing the troubles of appraisals and high price brought by revealing the sources. The selfish collectors only enjoy the real porcelain wares by themselves and keep the true grace of the porcelain far from the public. The situation is worrying. If so, the true information of the porcelain will never be recorded. How can future researchers appraise, compare and research without seeing the real porcelain? The problem cannot be solved by conventional ways. On the other hand, some people try to use advanced scientific means to explore real porcelain. However, if there is no standardized classification, how can people judge the authenticity of the porcelain? We need to use modern mechanical instruments to conduct scientific examination based on concrete theories and standards of identification and interpretation. We also need to consider the reliability and validity of the instruments. If there are errors in the results, the connoisseurs should decide whether the results can only for reference or actual judgment. Nowadays, cultural workers, auctioneers, connoisseurs, experts and collectors often hoodwink and hype. Although they possess extensive knowledge of the porcelain, they all have their own opinions. The identification of real porcelain lacks concrete theory and is mystified by the minority. Therefore, it is difficult to set appraisal standards. Disputes about the appraisals always continue, and the authenticity of the porcelain becomes a hot topic among academia, collectors and markets. The real porcelain wares are sometimes admitted to be real and sometimes not. Compliments and criticisms become rivals and confuse the public. The public doubts the existence and the influence of the porcelain.


  1. Features of the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty


  1. Most of the blue and white porcelain wares of the Yuan Dynasty, including vases, bottles, pots, plates and bowls, have symmetrical shapes, ensuring that the decorations distribute on the surface symmetrically. The artisans could arrange the decorations as their desire to achieve beautiful effects. The drawings and shapes of the porcelain can reflect the contemporary history, politics, culture and customs. The porcelain wares are not just daily commodities but become artworks; the art view of the porcelain is beyond the time or politics, so the porcelain is widely appreciated. The style and characteristics of the porcelain can also be used to identify the contemporary society, politics and ordinary lives.
  2. The porcelain wares have thick bodies, solid texture and majestic shapes, in accordance with the mixed style of Mongolia customs and the Central Plain culture. The porcelain body production is a conventional modeling technique. The bottoms of the porcelain wares are often rounded or unglazed with some scratches. The surface of the porcelain is covered with special spots, stripes and few glazed speckles. Kiln red is rarely seen or light-colored. There are two raw materials of the porcelain: porcelain clay and kaolin. The first step of production is modeling: build the mold first, and then create the roughcast.
  3. The two raw materials of the porcelain are kaolin with high aluminum concentration and porcelain clay from Jingdezhen, producing durable and heat-resistant porcelain wares. The materials contain metal impurities such as iron, causing special spots, stripes and speckles which can be observed on the porcelain surface very easily; small black particles can also be seen on white porcelain surface. The temperature of baking in the Yuan Dynasty was about 1250 Celsius degrees, so the unglazed part, the foot of the porcelain, is smoother and brighter. When observing the porcelain wares closely, you can see those with fine cracks on the surface shine like sapphire and the surface is covered with glaze fragments, while those without cracks are beautifully smooth. Because of underdeveloped mechanical technology in the Yuan Dynasty, the artisans were proficient in handmade. The quality of the porcelain depended upon individuals, environments, kilns, materials and baking temperature. Therefore, it is impossible to standardize the porcelain unless we judge from real porcelain wares.
  4. The baking temperature in the Yuan Dynasty was not extremely high, only about 1250 Celsius degrees. In order to strengthen the porcelain bodies, the artisans would tread and press the clay to clear air bubbles inside, while nowadays we use slip casting or hand molding method as well as rapid drying technique. When touching the real blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty, the surface is uneven; since the artisans used pine wood to bake, the surface is also brighter, more spatial hierarchical and more natural. As the glaze smudged, the glaze also congregated as a string of beads on upper part of the porcelain body. Because some silver grey or light yellow spots are observed on the site of congregation, this feature is called “tin light.”
  5. The bottom of the porcelain is often unglazed. About 0.1% of the ferrous iron on the bottom surface is oxidized into ferric oxide, which is so called “kiln red.” The characteristic of kiln red appear during the first supported bake but not in the second one, because carbides in clay had already become acidic agents and no oxidation is caused to produce kiln red. Therefore, kiln red is not often seen on the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty.

The kiln red of the porcelain is often a line of red color beside the border of glaze. This kind of kiln red was produced in ancient kilns. On the border of glaze, there are usually some black small spots caused by iron in clay. The black impurities on the surface of porcelain body are from the pollution of ashes in kilns or long-term oxidation under earth.

  1. If the porcelain wares were produced by slip casting, the trace of the casting, different from the trace of hand molding, can be observed on the surface of the porcelain. Hand molding is to shape the inner and outer surfaces with hands continuously; the stripes inside the porcelain are even, uniformly wide and smooth. On the other hand, the porcelain body from slip casting is less even and the stripes are inconsistently wide, so the thickness of porcelain wall is also not uniform; there are irregular traces left by hand or cloth inside the porcelain body; traces of interfaces and irregularities can often be sensed on the outer surface, and scratches can be seen on the uneven bottom; an interface can be seen on the upper side of the porcelain foot; the foot has thick and out leaned wall; the surplus round foot, which is added beside the porcelain body, is not the same shape as the original one; the interface is obvious; if the porcelain body is too high, the trace of twice glaze dipping can be observed.
  2. Features of the blue and white porcelain are explained as follows:

(1) Exotic features: The porcelain has various styles according to foreign cultures such as Arab and Islam, different customers’ needs, and even diplomatic etiquettes.

(2) Imitation: The porcelain bodies are thick and the shapes are delicate and elegant, in order to imitate the style of metal, bronze and jade appliance in previous generations.

(3) Customs: After the Mongolia controlled the Central Plain, the Mongolian culture did not change much. Thus, the style of the porcelain is not only delicate and elegant, but also creative, crude, and even closely related to Buddhism and Taoism. The characteristics of the porcelain were inspired by the religions, such as the theory of round sky with square land, and gourd. New styles were created with contemporary fashion and different functions. The features of the porcelain are thick and crude, so the porcelain wares have become beautiful artworks.

(4) Example diagram: The features of the porcelain: the style is crude, thick and quaint. The texture is loose with many air holes and solid. The trace of interface between the neck part and the belly part can be sensed easily. The porcelain foot is often out leaned and has rough unglazed surface. Overall, the features and techniques of the porcelain are fascinating, reaching an extremely high level of art.

(5) Garlic-shaped vase: garlic-like narrow opening and round rim. Olive-shaped vase: narrow neck and bottom with wide belly. Wine bottle: small opening rim, shrinking shoulders and straight wide belly. Wine vessel: straight body with shrinking middle part beneath the neck; slightly wide in middle belly but shrinking in lower belly and then wide again; the size of opening rim and round foot are similar, but wider rim can be seen sometimes. Army general bottle: helmet-shaped; higher than other kinds of bottles; straight opening, wide shoulders and shrinking belly. Plate: the biggest level of bottom diameter is about 60-100 cm, the medium is about 30-50 cm, and the smallest is rarely found. Bowl: diameter of both straight opening bowls and shrinking opening bowls is about 40 cm. Globular vase: straight opening, long neck and wide belly. Plum vase: small opening, short neck, flat shoulders and shrinking beneath belly. Yuhuchun vase: wide beneath neck; slim and long neck; wide rim; wide and oval-shaped belly; shrinking bottom; slightly out-leaned round foot. Gourd vase: round upper and lower part with shrinking middle part; small opening. Ceramic fragment: the bigger one is about 90 cm length and 45 cm width; the middle one is about 38 cm length and 25 cm width.

  1. Cobalt pigments and glaze of the blue and white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty


  1. Before the Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasty, cobalt pigments produced domestically in China were mainly Tu pigment and Pingteng pigment, both which contained low iron concentration, high manganese concentration and lots of impurities.

(1) Tu pigment: the color is brownish-blue, and the pigment was  from plains in Wuchung, Jiangsu.

   (2) Pingteng pigment: the color is uniformly lighter blue, and the    pigment was from Zhejiang and Jiangxi.

  1. During the Yuan Dynasty, most cobalt pigments were imported. Cobalt blue contains high iron concentration but low manganese concentration. As a result, the pigments will show bright sapphire-like blue after being baked; the pigments will also show smudge, irregular rust-colored stripes and round iron-colored spots when baked with 1250 Celsius degrees. Tin light can be only seen within those rust-colored stripes. In lines twisting sites, there are obviously protruding dark blue spots which are aggregation of blue and black mineral particles under magnifying glass and can be sensed when touched.

The imported cobalt blue contains high concentration of iron, low concentration of manganese, and arsenic. The pigments will show black small spots within thick blue color after being baked. Those black small spots are visible to the naked eyes. Besides, since the pigments contain minute metal impurities, sometimes the color will become blue with mild purple and red.

Imported cobalt blue is attached to the roughcast surface easily. The amount of pigments affect the color directly. Therefore, the pigments have to be painted in properly constant color, and no obvious pause can be noticed in the drawing lines. The painting speed needs to be kept constant until the painting finished.

Most of the pigments used on fine porcelain were imported cobalt pigments (cobalt blue with high iron concentration and low manganese concentration). The color of the pigments is thick and beautiful with few black spots when baked with pine wood. Within rust-colored stripes, there are some brown spots aggregating beneath glaze, causing an effect called “smudge.” Overall, due to the artisans’ professional skills, the color of the porcelain is constant, thick, glamorous and delicate; the smudge of the pigments induces three-dimensional effect; the decorations are clear and delicate. It is slightly obvious that the pigments infiltrate into the porcelain body, and the surface is uneven when touched. When observed through a magnifying glass, the dark crystal stripes form a network. It is rare in other dynasties that the blue and white porcelain has glamorous coloration, sometimes blue with slight black, and the color pigments infiltrate into the bodies.

  1. The blue and white porcelain of the Yuan dynasty is art and culture treasure: proper coloration, drawings similar to Chinese ink painting, and fascinating features including style, glaze, pigments and decorations. During the Yuan Dynasty, not only Jingdezhen kiln but also other kilns could produce the porcelain, so the porcelain from different kilns have various kinds of shapes, pigments, texture, style and decorations. Although many factors affected the cultural inheritance of the porcelain, the overall development of the porcelain can still be traced with the progress of history, culture, politics and living environment.
  2. The function of glaze: Glaze is a glass-like material. Its main ingredient is silica (SiO2). When glaze is baked with high temperature to reach its melting point, it changes from solid state to liquid state. Calcium oxide within glaze is an agent which can decrease the melting temperature of pigments and the viscosity of glaze. Therefore, the pigments spread beneath the glaze in high temperature, while the coloration of pigments is affected in low temperature. The temperature control of kilns is the key to influence the coloration of the pigments.
  3. The examination of glaze: Devitrification is often found during the process of baking or lowering the temperature. If silica in glaze stays too long in certain temperature range which makes silica crystalize easily, the brightness of silica will be poorer. In this period, glass-like silica liquid has unstable property. When silica stays in the temperature range for a prolonged time, the silica particles will rearrange into crystals, causing the surface of porcelain softer and less bright. We can use this phenomenon to perform examination. If the specimen is older, it has more devitrification. The examination can be combined with spectrum examination to identify the age of the specimen. However, if the artisans added matting agents (such as zinc compounds), the results of examination may be affected.
  4. Most of the porcelain pigments have high calcium concentration, so they are alkaline. The alkaline induces oxidation and becomes neutral or acidic. Therefore, when using the same supportive padding repetitively (about five times), the kiln red of the porcelain baked in later time is lighter than that in previous time. Besides, the kiln red beside the border of glaze is associated with calcium and alkaline.
  5. The more pure the pigments are, the more the ferric oxide particles aggregate during baking. If the cobalt pigments are pure with low concentration of ferric oxide and manganese dioxide, the color of the pigments becomes more blue; if more cobalt pigments aggregate, the color become dark blue and even black; if the temperature of kilns is high, more ferric ions release and cumulate beneath the glaze, forming black spots called “iron-colored spots” on the pigments. The water saturation beneath glaze decrease, and water steam leaks from the porcelain surface in gaseous or ion state. High-aggregated iron colored spots and glaze will obstruct the water leaking. If the temperature of glaze increases slowly, a fine porcelain ware, a demonstration from a skillful artisan, may be produced. The above is the special chemical change of glaze, porcelain cast and ferric reduction, causing softer vitrification of glaze and making the porcelain look older.

5. Porcelain

  1. Patterns and Paintings of blue-and-white porcelain had already been well-developed in Han, Sui, Tang and Song Dynasty. Most of the patterns were the shapes of bronze metal crafts and jade objects before Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty, whereas personal designs were rarely found other than the conservatively regular changes made in the Chinese culture. China became more ethnically diverse with a mixture of exotic culture and characteristics of ethnic minorities. In addition, as the land- and sea-based Silk Road opened, characterized styles, patterns and creations exclusively to each ethnic group along the route from the central Asia to the West were gradually spread in the mainland China. Foreign art mixed together with local art had resulted in cultural blending with the simulation of new creations and sparks. However, the culture of the Central Plains still preceded any other culture to be passed down, which was the reason why Yuan, Ming and Qing porcelains in most cases followed the designs from the last dynasty without presenting much individual thoughts. Many foreigners would request to buy porcelains painted with nature, flags or national emblems of other racial groups; seldom would choose Tang and Song patterns with carved designs. Before the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China, the trend significantly influenced the layout of porcelain design. In the meanwhile, craftsmen were inspired by religion, god, historical heroes, auspicious animals, plants, mountains and rivers that could be often seen on Yuan blue-and-white porcelains.

Patterns and paintings of Yuan blue-and-white porcelains were derived from Han and Tang Dynasty with more new ideas added. It is possible to identify techniques and structures derived from different dynasties from contemporary social phenomenon and political changes. As the traditional concept of the Central Plains culture evolved, the historical evolution, political changes and social customs were also displayed on Yuan blue-and-white porcelains.

  1. The initial development of Yuan blue-and-white porcelains was divided into two periods, A.D. 1264 and A.D. 1314, where crafts, body, cobalt blue pigments and glaze had already revealed the initial establishment of Yuan blue-and-white porcelains. It featured initiation and originality because the patterns were mostly flowers and plants, mountains and rivers, birds and animals, but rarely human portraits. The composition of images was simple and clear. That most of cobalt blue pigments used were produced domestically, and only a few were imported reflected the limited development of crafts and patterns in the early Yuan Dynasty. Because of small production with few overseas sales, blue-and-white porcelains such as goblets, plates and bowls were mainly used as containers for praying for blessings, worshiping or sacrificial offering. Yuan blue-and-white porcelains at this time had thicker glazed surface, so bubbles existed in different layers. Bubbles in the bottom layer were small and dense whereas bigger bubbles existed in the middle and upper layers.

6. History of Yuan Blue-and-White Porcelain Paintings

During Han Dynasty, Chang Chien traveled to the West through the Silk Road. He brought Chinese silk fabrics and tea leaves to the West, and returned with silk, bronze and paintings full of western color. The patterns of tricolor glazed pottery of Tang Dynasty were reportedly adopting batik according to the printed Persian patterns and Tang debris left. Persian Styran tree could ward off evil spirits and stood for the West. The interlocked branch lotus and the beaded pattern on the porcelains were all derived from the tree of life - Persian Styran trees. Branches were interlocked by Buddhism plants such as lotus, plum, chrysanthemum, peony and grapes; flower clusters were formed by half or complete leaf veins. Grapes were imported to China by Chang Chien in Han Dynasty.

During the time when Mongolian nomads ruled Yuan Dynasty, Han Chinese was in the low social hierarchy and suffered political persecution. Therefore, they turned to religion, historical stories, Xiqu characters, fantasized sacred beasts, nature beauty and the three friends of winter (referring to pine, bamboo and plum), which had been clearly presented on the porcelains. Blue flower was massively drawn on the blue-and-white porcelains because of its multilayer structure sophisticated enough to stand out the porcelain body.

The commonly seen plant patterns painted on Yuan blue-and-white porcelains include: (1) Bao-xiang flowers that have petals combined in a radio symmetry way. (2) Curly grass patterns that consist of consecutive curly band shape of lotus petals connecting with many lively leaves. (3) Splendid and delicate curly grass patterns that circle an arch space decorated by peony and lotus. Yuan Dynasty soon took over the entire China. Born in a pastureland culture, the Mongolian nomads had keen observation on birds and animals, flowers and plants, allowing them to integrate the nature and fantasized sacred beasts with Yuan blue-and-white porcelains.

Yuan blue-and-white porcelains also presented craftsmen’s infinite imagination and their interpretation of nature. They freely portrayed the figures, Xiqu, temple fairs, fish-grass, green winged teals, birds, bamboo flowers, mountains and lakes with refined skills to bring them alive. It seemed that the brush and ink would continue to paint with no limits. On the other hand, chrysanthemum, peony or lotus were rarely seen alone on Yuan blue-and-white porcelains. Although a cluster of flowers looked comparatively realistic, the overall image looked chaotic. As a result, geometrical patterns were used in the composition of images so as to make them look like a sketch from a real life. To break the formality and to emphasize the splendid decoration on the porcelain body edges, the patterns of interlocked branches, sea pomegranate, peony, lotus, plum tree, sea wave, ruyi cloud, fish algae, marigold were presented with trees and plants dotted among spaces. All craftsmen had skillful kiln firing techniques. Larger Yuan blue-and-white porcelains were divided into six more layers. The middle layer was wider and had a clear theme such as dragon, phoenix, mythical beasts, interlocked peony branches, marigold and pomegranate. The sophisticated patterns were drawn layer by layer carefully. The upper layer corresponded to the bottom layer with interlocked branches and flowers. The very bottom layer adopted multilayer composition with free will arrangement of Buddhism “ji (auspicious)” character, reversed lotus, eight treasure patterns and ocean patterns. Most of the styles were affected by the ink wash paintings from Han, Tang and Song painters, where extreme natural developments were presented; Tang and Song styles were the extension of impressionism with the involvement of craftsmen’s imagination. The stretch and interlocking branches of plants and flowers were opposite to Han, Tang and Song styles aiming at 3D display. The blue and white patterns seemed to be painted on silk paper, making it suitable for porcelain decorations and flexible for any tactful transformation. To sum up, patterns and paintings of Yuan blue-and-white porcelains were undoubtedly affected by ink wash paintings.

7. Symbolization of Yuan Blue-and-White Porcelain

(1) Traditional auspicious patterns: a. The eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism: conch shell, dharma wheel, parasol, victory banner, lotus, treasure vase, golden fish and endless knot. B. The three friends of winter: pine, plum and bamboo. C. Mythical beasts. d. Jinlu sounds the same as ‘deer’ in Chinese. E. Chinese homonyms: ‘you will get a promotion soon’ - point your finger at the sun; ‘Good fortune is before your eyes’ - a bat is in front of your eyes; ‘everything you wish for will come true’ - lotus, boxes and ruyi; ‘immortality’ - peach, pomegranate and bergamot; ‘absolute fulfillment’ - pen, pill and ruyi; ‘bon voyage’ - an egret is dancing.

(2) Religious patterns: Taoism patterns is rooted in Yuan Dynasty, featuring eight immortals and promoted by Xiqu. The auspicious patterns included the 18 Lohans in Buddhism, the Immortal of the South Pole, the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, Laozi riding a cow, three sheep bring auspice, sea creatures, etc.

(3) Folk Xiqu and historical story:

  1. Door Guard Yuchi Gong: Yuchi Gong protected Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty from the disturbance of noisy demons at night. Yuchi Gong was valiant in warfare. His troops upheld a Tang flag, a phoenix tree, a willow tree, bamboo, ganoderma and mountain rocks. The entire picture looked tremendously powerful.
  2. Lady Wang Zhaojun Departs the Frontier: The story was from the Book of Han. Wang Zhaojun was sent by Emperor Yuan of Han Dynasty to merry Chanyu in order to establish friendly relationship with the ethnic Xiongnu. The space design of the porcelains showed highly appreciated creativity.
  3. Guiguzi came down from the mountain: In the warring states period in ancient China, the state of Qi and Yan were in a war. Su Dai upheld a flag of Wang Yi, whose nickname was Guiguzi, to ask him coming down from the mountain to save his disciple.
  4. Zhou Yafu encamped Xi Liu: Zhou’s father, Zhou Bo, was one of the key generals for the founder of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang. Zhou Yafu implemented strict discipline even when the Emperor Wen of Han came to a visit the military camp, he saluted to the emperor without taking off his armor. The Emperor Wen of Han, Zhou Yafu, troops and courtiers all displayed different gestures and facial expressions.
  5. Jin Xiang Ting: The love story between Chen Gui, the first candidate in the civil service examination, and Meng Yue-Mei during Emperor Xuanzong of Tang. Three other female characters were also presented including Lei Wan-Chun, nephew Tien Ran, and Bi Chiu.
  6. The Story of the Western Wing (also translated as Romance of the West Chamber): The story happened in Tang Dynasty. A young scholar, Zhang Sheng, met the daughter of a chief minister, Cui Ying-ying, in a Buddhist monastery when traveling to Chang’an from Loyan. Ying-ying’s mother took back her word to let Zhang Sheng marry to ying-ying, so the couple decided to pine away. Ying-ying’s mother reluctantly agreed the marriage in the end under one condition: Zhang Sheng must travel to the capital and pass the examination.
  7. Three visits to the cottage: the interaction among Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Kongming.
  8. Xiao He Pursues Han Xin by the Moonlight: the body of porcelains was wide enough for making various changes. The patterns and detailed decoration seemed to bring the story alive, especially the arrangement where audience won’t know who ride the horse unless they look from the other side of Xiao He. To appreciate the porcelains, the audience needs to know well about each story plot.
  9. Meng Tian, thevaliant general of Qin State: General

Meng Tian is a tragic hero, warriors held Meng Tian

General flags, military leader Meng Tian in front of

them who donned tall phoenix feather helmet, armour and

caligae, with a warrior who held a bow and another

law-executor with short cloth and caligae who captured

a bureaucrat kneel down in front of him.

  1. Gao Shi visited the virtuous person, brought wine

and zither to visit friends, 《Water Margin》Wu Song

fights the tiger, “Timely Rain” Song Jiang and so on.

(4) Juancao plant, Marigold and Sea pomegranate form

plentiful rhythm, with floating clouds and wave grains

in the sky, all together they perform extremely gorgeous

creation of natural flowers and plants, and with variety

of assortment ornamented, the grains become soft and

smooth. The ornamentation with plants with lotus,

peony, pomegranate, chrysanthemum, bamboo and orchid

change quiet uniquely and plentiful, showing the

characteristics in each story, and apply with 1.

radial combination, 2. Juancao grains overlap into

banding, 3. geometric pattern as if it is painted, such

as interlocking flowers, corresponding to each other

and connected well, coordinating application that is

suitable for bamboo over porcelain to make it more close

to the outcome of flower painting, decorating with

decorative patterns, and leafs twining all over.

(5) Patterns on blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty

are animal ornamentation about the nature, meditation, mythological animals and auspicious animals, as the decoration of patterns, for there are no physically existed animals like this, they are flexible subjects which can change widely; since the animals are slowly changing in the process of history development, there is no boundary in conversion. Blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty can be with any kinds of patterns on it, mostly based on existing species, no changes in patterns of ornamentations, only very little ones might develop with some changes in certain extent. Though blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty reveal distant reveries of craftsmen and culture of domination by different tribes, but for long-term inheritance of Central Plain culture, the whole layout of ornamentation is corresponding to contemporary life and to pray for peace and prosperity, the elements and thoughts become much multivariate since changes and coups take place, which also brings lives to the whole picture, making it become more vivid and elegant.

(6) Auspicious animals and dragons in Yuan Dynasty are with smaller heads and thinner necks, the bodies are like snakes but with powerful limbs, meanwhile less mighty and brave than the former ones, but the painting is much free-spirited and unlimited imaginations of craftsmen are allowed to put in the topic of creation.

Animal ornamentations may look like real or created from Imagination:

  1. Slightly process and change realistic animals’ totem
  2. There are no physical objects for imaginary animals so it is transformed into some kind of long lasting decoration patterns. The ideas of auspicious animals are with sort of luck, such as flying phoenix with wishful clouds, wondering dragons, phoenix in the clouds with Kirin, lions (foreign creature), mandarin ducks, peacocks, cranes, swan goose, algae among fishes and so on, apparently it takes characteristics and styles of each period into consideration of designs, they seem to be wealthy nimble and enlivened inblue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty.

(7) The Yin Yang and five elements that eliminate ominous and rid calamities in four directions for housing : 1.south- rose finch, fire element in the front; north-black tortoise, water elements in the back; east-blue dragon, wood element in the left; west-white tiger, gold element in the right; 2. Animals that look like David's deer or single-horn Kirin that rid calamities; 3. Phoenix: animal with chicken head, snake’s neck, swallow’s forehead, turtle’s back and fish tail; 4. black tortoise ornamentation is originated from religion, it is combined with snake’s head, turtle’s body and is hermaphroditic.

  1. imaginaryeudemons: dragon, phoenix, mythological animal, single-horn Kirin, brave troops(with two horns similar to deer’s , brave and heroic) and so on.
  2. natural animals: lion, giant salamander, elephant, peacock, turtle, fish, cow, horse, deer and dog.

(8) It takes more artifice to do the fish and water plant ornamentation on blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty, the plants in the water, siniperca and carp were like real, together with lotus and algae in the pond they form a sketching from nature.

8. History of art in blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty

The artwork of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynastyexisted in a really unique situation, it originated from not only culture of Yuan Dynasty but also inherited Central Plains cultures of Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty. Though the history and style of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty might matter from social development and evolution, however, it was able to establish new status of contemporary social and cultural origins. Ornamentation on blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty was with highly cultural standards in the society at that time, meanwhile artists and politicians had tried to fuse prairie culture in Yuan Dynasty into Central Plains cultural thinking, still, it was culture of Central Plains which influenced more than prairie culture, both in academic culture and origin of art, regardless of regional or integral development, and it turned out to be multiple cultures and styles in national development, it embodied well in diverse ornamentation. Craftsmen in Yuan Dynasty followed the holy and saints and seek personal spirited performance from daily lives, it became main topic of ornamentation on blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty.

   Ornamentation reflects the changes in contemporary social

life, customs, thinking, politics and religion , and it is hard

to not to consider the thinking of being ruled by foreign tribes

and ruled by Zhu Yuanzhang in the end of Yuan Dynasty into the

ornamentation, therefore the whole development of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty presents unique meaning of generation. The ornamentation of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty was divided into two stage development. It is apparently that the ornamentation presents the process of development, and the style of it also shows the hetero tribes domination and turmoil in the end of the dynasty as the way it was. The blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty carries the hopes of so many people, thought they were Mongolian steppe nomads without many ancient traditions, however, the broad and direct influence from Central Plains native culture leads to some changes, the craftsmen followed the their own inherent culture meanwhile kilning with leading Central Plains native culture, so we can see the history development in the blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty.

The craftsmen in Yuan Dynasty is skilled in portraying blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty. The way it presents leads to different taste of art, by using traditional tools and smaltum to kiln, the color it presents also represents the quality and condition of it, and it takes contemporary topics and traditional skills to make. The blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty renders shades of natural variability along with the changes and development. The craftsmen concentrate on open spirits and limitation of thinking and no longer restricted by existing nature, they are free to create and express the spirits of objects through creation, pursuing existence in both reality and imagination, and the influence of time might help us to figure out the contemporary politics and historical background, which transforms the practicability of spiritual life into artistic function. The blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty performs the reflection of actual experience in painting, and to apply it properly into figures, shapes, appearance and even emotions; with their the full spirit and concentration in it, craftsmen perform their best skills on the artwork! The painting brings out meaningful artistic conception of the natural reveries, and the quietness and loneliness in the painting come from the atmosphere of the dynasty. The portrait of figures are originated from fiction and drama, and they are corresponding to the Dan Qing painting in Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty, also they reflects stories of real life with vivid facial expression and details in reality such as trees, sun, glass and clouds; with background in the back, all together complete the composition of the picture and make the historical and cultural changes into the main topic. The trees, stones, clouds and shadows of them are like real, the painting presents the sense of both meaning and reality, and showing its emotion by bringing out the loneliness in that time.

9. Firing kilns, sales and inscriptions of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty

  1. The analysis of firing kilns and sales analysis of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty briefly described below:

(1)    South China Sea waterway: The ones that derived from Southeast coast private kilns were mainly sold to indigenous islands in southeast Asia, and the ones in Malay Peninsula through the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and other places are with lower quality.

(2)    Central Land: The ones that derived from Jindezhen imperial or personal kilns were mainly sold to Muslim countries in the Middle East area, such as Persia, Xinjiang, Central Asian and other places, and the quality is better.

(3)    Fuliang porcelain Board: Established in 1278 until Yuan 15 years and mainly served for Mongolian military. Their porcelain products were sold to Thailand, Indonesia islands, the Malay Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, the Philippine islands, the city of Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf coast southern Iran Kilman, Japan, Korea, and other East African coast. They are collected in Tehran National Museum, Iran; Topkapi Palace Museum, Turkish.

  1. Inscriptions of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty

There are different types of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty : the one with year of making, the one with elegant name of hall or person, the official one and the one with inscriptions, above all kinds are rare and mostly for personal collection or disappeared abroad. It is originated from Cizhou Kiln and Jizhou Kiln in Song Dynasty that so many important paintings and images on it, and then directly influence Jingdezhen and other kilns, there were identical inscriptions earlier, for example, personal collection “Bo Ling article” blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty, which is inherited from craftsman Zhang Wenjin of Yuan Dynasty, who apprenticed to the master in Cheng Tang kiln, Jingdezhen, and he took what he had leant as foundation to establish his own brand and pass the skills on. This is written on the artwork from him: “Passing on eternally, to profound the spirits by kilning in the house on the hills.” The Zhang craftsman’s house became a place where the cultures, economy and skills of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty meets with each other, and what Zhang craftsman has created “Bo Ling article” was passed down through the ages.

10. Changes of the ornamentation and patter on blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty

The history of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty

Began in Zhizheng 6 years (1314) to Hongwu year (1368) of Ming Dynasty, when general Zhu Yuanzhang took over Jingdezhen, the ornamentation had gradually changed in its pattern, though it was still showing the elements from Yuan Dynasty, the decoration in natural and imaginary animals had slightly changed, for example, the dragon painting was mostly with 3 or 4 claws, but the 5 claws dragon with thin neck was created in that time, for restoring bold and powerful impression. As time goes by and politics changes, the ornamentation and patterns changes as well.

11. The ornamentation of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty was from sketching by ink

The ornamentation of blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty are from the heart of craftsmen, with their skillful craft and free spirit in creation they make the artwork similar to Chinese brush painting, and with glaze substitute for ink, porcelain body substitute for paper. The ornamentation passing on and is influenced by so many different possibilities, the trail of history is distinguishable and it is a symbolization of their own expression and thought. The impact that leads to restricting the ways to tell the story was broken down, and ornamentation took over the place of expressing the features of time, historical and cultural changes, allowing tradition to be inherited and innovated and making infinite trace in the history.

12. Conclusion

Beside those are from ruins and tombs, there are very few blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty passed on through heirs of families, most of them are from collection in a cellar, which make it more integral and refined, and with obvious characteristics of the times. It is possible that in some other places, blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty was found by any methods and approaches, the number of it might be much more than archaeologists in China. Part of them might be submitted to the Nation or disappeared in abroad, but most possibly that might be kept as personal collection, waiting to be sold with a good price or collected.

Mongolian cavalry ruled Central Plains in Yuan Dynasty, however, the Central Plains traditional indigenous culture still played an important role on history in blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty. The Han nationality was ruled by hetero tribes which leaded to cultural differences and environmental changes, and various ways of trading allowed foreign cultures exchange around China Mainland, yet the craftsmen kept the traditional Chinese culture and combined it with diverse elements such as local culture, nomadic culture and foreign cultures, making new creations in it and gradually forming ornamentation and patterns on blue and white porcelain of Yuan Dynasty, all together with the shape of porcelain body form the unique style of it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *