Forms and Uses

We have now given a summary sketch of the history and development of the
porcelain of China, and have seen something of the processes of
manufacture and decoration. Incidentally some account has been given of
the principal wares.

We now propose to take up the subject from the side of the paste, the
glaze, and the decoration, putting aside the question of age and of
historical sequence, and to run through the various classes into which
we can divide our material under these heads. We shall follow as far as
possible the arrangement adopted in the British Museum, passing from the
simpler forms of decoration to the more complex.

First, however, let us say a few words on the forms given to porcelain
by the Chinese, and the uses these objects are put to in the country of
their origin.[85]

In a first glance at any large collection of Chinese porcelain the bulk
of the objects shown appear to fall into four classes: plates and
dishes, bowls, vases for flowers, and covered jars.[86] But a closer
examination discloses an endless variety of other uses to which
porcelain has been applied by the Chinese.

The figures of the gods and the vessels associated with their worship
found in the temples and household shrines form by themselves a large
division. Here the use of porcelain has from a very early period been
encouraged at the expense of bronze and other metals. The ritual vessels
used in the imperial worship at Pekin have for ages been made of
porcelain. Many of them, as the jars for sacrificial wine, in the form
of elephants and rhinoceroses, are copied from the most archaic bronze
types; of the same origin is the small libation cup of peculiar shape
sometimes seen in our collections. The _Wu-kung_, or five vessels that
stand in front of a Buddhist shrine, the incense-burner in the centre,
with a candlestick and a vase on either side, are often in China made of
porcelain. In Japan these objects are always of metal. A similar set is
found in the Taoist temples. The colour of the vessels in ritual use at
Pekin varies with the temple in which they are found. Those of the
ancestral temple of the emperors are of imperial yellow; those of the
altar of heaven of a deep blue (a set of five of this colour, recently
brought from Pekin, may be seen at South Kensington). A red glazed ware
is connected with the altar of the sun, and white with that of the
planet Jupiter.

The objects used in the burning of perfume, the basis doubtless of the
highly elaborated apparatus of the Japanese, are usually made of
porcelain: these are the incense-burner, the boxes for the perfumes, and
the little vase to hold the fire-sticks and the tongs. From these we may
pass to the various objects found on the table of the cultured classes,
most of them connected with literary pursuits. This is an important
division in Chinese collections, as we may judge from the often-quoted
manuscript catalogue of Dr. Bushell. The slabs, the water-drippers, and
a dozen other small objects are modelled in a variety of forms. The
pen-rest is generally in the shape of a small range of mountains, the
highest in the centre (this, by the way, is the ancient form of the
Chinese character for ‘mountain,’ _cf._ PL. VIII.). One of the strangest
uses to which porcelain is put by the Chinese is the hat-stand in the
form of a hollow sphere supported on a tall, tubular column–the sphere
may be filled with either fine charcoal embers or with ice, according to
the season.

Pillows, too, are made of porcelain–there is one of the _famille verte_
in the Salting collection–but the native collector is warned against
those of a certain size and shape, as they may have been stolen from
tombs. Tall vases to contain arrows, either cylindrical or square in
section, are especially connected with the Manchus. These large vessels
may generally be known by their porcelain stands often surrounded by

The vases and bowls are of all sizes and shapes. The biggest ovoid vases
with dome-shaped covers may stand in the hall on carved stands; indeed,
they are found in similar positions in many of the palaces of India,
Persia, and Europe.

The flower vases form an important group, and as in Japan, there is
quite a library of illustrated work devoted to them. Both the shape and
the decoration of the vase are dependent upon the flowers it is destined
to hold, and the arrangement and combination of these flowers is
regulated by rival schools of specialists.

The combination of five pieces to form a _garniture de cheminée_ is not
altogether a European idea. The Chinese have a similar combination–the
_Wu-shê_, or set of five; but with them an uncovered vase is preferred
for the central piece. For the service of the dinner-table there are
many forms: among the cups, plates, and dishes of all shapes and sizes
we may select for mention the dishes with covers indicating by their
shapes the contents–fish, birds, or fruit. With these we may compare
the similar forms made at one time at Chelsea and elsewhere. There are,
again, the compound dishes in the form of flowers, each petal forming a
compartment. Finally, we must not forget the tall, cylindrical mugs with
crown-like tops, used for cooling drinks in summer, or among the Mongols
for their koumis.

There are also certain forms made chiefly, but not exclusively, for the
Mohammedan west. Of these, we may mention the bases for the hookah,
recognisable by the small, straight spouts at the side to which the
flexible smoking-tube is attached; the scent-sprinklers with tall,
narrow necks; and the hand-spittoons with globular body and
wide-spreading orifice,–these last, by the way, are used in China also.

It is not known to what date we can refer the oldest of the little
medicine-flasks (Chinese _yao-ping_) which have in later times been used
as snuff-bottles. They seem to have been carried westward in large
numbers by the Arab traders, and that from an early date. In shape and
size they have varied little.[87] Those found so abundantly in Egypt are
generally very small, and are often shaped in imitation of a flattened
vase with a square foot: some of them are of a rough-looking celadon,
others are covered with a green enamel with white reserves. These are
the little bottles that found themselves suddenly so famous towards the
beginning of the last century, when they were extracted by the Arabs
from Egyptian tombs of early dynasties. Somewhat later they encountered
some rivals in the small seals of white Chinese porcelain which were
discovered in the Irish bogs!

We can only mention in passing a few of the innumerable subsidiary uses
which porcelain is made to serve in China, taking the place of so many
other materials, above all of metal:–fittings for furniture, especially
for the bedstead, frames for the abacus, or calculating-table, knobs for
walking-sticks and hanging scrolls, boxes of various shapes and sizes
for cosmetics, buttons, bracelets, and hair-ornaments. Finally, the very
fragments, what we should call pot-sherds, of the oldest wares,
especially when fine in colour, may be found mounted in gold or silver
and worn as personal ornaments.

* * * * *

We started our sketch of Chinese porcelain with a rough historical
division into three classes. We are now concerned only with questions of
glazes and decoration, and we shall find that the apparently innumerable
varieties of Chinese porcelain fall, with few exceptions, under one or
other of the following heads:–

1. White, or nearly white, ware, which may be glazed or unglazed.

2. Single-glaze wares, either true monochromes or, if of more than one
colour, the variety of colour arising from changes brought about in the
single glaze during the firing.

3. Porcelain decorated under the glaze. Chiefly blue, less often blue
combined with red, or red alone.

4. The decoration given by painting with glazes of more than one colour,
probably always on the biscuit. We may call this the class of polychrome

5. The decoration painted over the glaze with enamels more fusible than
the glaze on which they rest.

PLAIN WHITE WARE.–The white ware made at Ting-chou, a town in the
province of Chihli, to the south-west of Pekin, as early as Sung times,
served as a type for all the many kinds of similar ware made in later
days at King-te-chen. We have seen (p. 68) that there was a variety, of
the earlier ware, of creamy tint covered with a soft glaze containing
lead; this is the _Tu-ting_, of which there are several specimens in the
British Museum. It was, however, the pure white variety, the
_Feng-ting_, that was afterwards copied. The colour of this ware, when
not a pure white, tends to blue and greenish tints, and it is often
finely crackled. This ware, especially the thin, translucent, egg-shell
variety of the time of Yung-lo (1402-25), is much sought after by
Chinese collectors.

But the greater part of the plain white Chinese porcelain in European
collections was not made either at Ting-chou or at King-te-chen. It is
rather to be traced to the only other important centre for the
manufacture of porcelain that survives in China. This is the district of
Te-hua (Tek-kwa in the local dialect), in the province of Fukien. This
province had been famed in Sung times for its tea-bowls covered with a
dark glaze, and we must remember that somewhere along its rocky,
indented coast was situated the port of Zaitun, so famous in early days
for its Arab trade. In later times the roadstead of Amoy came to rival
Canton as a port of call for our ships; it is mentioned in this
connection by the Père D’Entrecolles, and from it most of the _blanc de
Chine_ which at that time reached Europe was probably exported. For it
was this Fukien ware rather than the white Ting porcelain that was
imported into Europe from the latter half of the seventeenth century, to
be copied in the earlier days of Saint-Cloud and Bow. In Spain it was a
great favourite from perhaps an earlier date, and when the Buen Retiro
works were started this ware was taken as a model.

This white ware does not seem to have been made at Te-hua before the
Ming period, but it soon established itself as the _pai-tsu_–the white
ware _par excellence_ of China. It is distinguished by the creamy white
of its paste and glaze–that is to say, the colour tends


towards a warm, yellowish tint rather than towards the cold, pure white
or bluish tone of most of the King-te-chen and still more of the
Japanese wares. The satiny glaze appears to melt into the subjacent
ground in a way that reminds us of some of the European soft paste

It is the moulded ware that is most characteristic of the ‘Kien
yao‘–vases with dragons in full relief creeping round the neck,
incense-burners in many complicated forms, figures of Kwan-yin (whom we
should _not_ call the ‘Goddess of Mercy‘) in many incarnations; or
again, Ta-mo (so well known in Japan as Daruma), the _Bodhi-dharma_ who
brought the faith to China, with overhanging brows and abstracted,
solemn gaze. Among animals, the favourite is the lion, the so-called
‘dog of Fo,’ sporting with an open-work ball.

Many of these figures are very ably executed; they stand firm and erect;
and the draperies, though here the mannerisms of the ‘calligraphic’
school of painting may be recognised, fall in simple folds from the
shoulders. The prevalence of Buddhist types (for the Taoist divinities
are here less frequently represented) may be connected with the
exceptional predominance of that religion in Fukien, a province somewhat
remote from the rest of China, whose inhabitants speak a dialect very
different from the standard Chinese.

Some very creditable work seems to be still turned out from the Te-kua
district, to judge by the ware that finds its way to the shops of
Fuchow. Some enamelled ware appears to have been at one time made in
this district. In the British Museum are some small pieces decorated
with five colours (among them a blue enamel _over_ the glaze), which on
the ground of the nature of the glaze and the paste have been classed as
Fukien ware; while from the style of the decoration they would appear to
date from the early eighteenth century.

Much white porcelain, both the Feng-ting and the Fukien, was imported
into Europe from the end of the seventeenth century, and it forms an
important element in old collections. Some of this white ware, at a
later time, was decorated with colours in England and elsewhere, giving
rise to a class of porcelain that has caused some confusion to

In China, white porcelain is used in time of mourning, at least that is
the case with that supplied to the imperial court.

Unglazed porcelain is comparatively rare in China, but figures of gods
or of animals are sometimes found in biscuit, and the little boxes in
which crickets are kept for fighting are generally of unglazed ware.
Again, where, as in the class of polychrome glazes, the glaze is applied
with a brush, some part may be left unglazed; and this practice has
survived in the case of the lions and kilins of the _famille verte_,
where we often find the biscuit exposed in parts of the face.

CELADON WARE.–As the white ware of King-te-chen–the _Ting_–has got
its name from the town of Ting-chou where it was first made, so the many
varieties of celadon[88] porcelain are connected in the Chinese mind
with the town of Lung-chuan, near the southern boundary of the province
of Chekiang. We have already given some space to this ware, so important
from the _cultur-historisch_ point of view, and we shall have to return
to it again when we come to investigate the routes by which the
porcelain of China passed in the Middle Ages to other countries. Here we
will merely call attention to the later revival of the celadon glazes
mentioned in a passage we have quoted from the letters of the Jesuit
father. But the highly finished porcelain, with a fine white paste
covered with a pale greyish-green glaze of uniform thickness and shade,
differs much from the old vases with ‘red mouth and foot.’ There is a
remarkably fine specimen in the Wallace collection at Hertford House
with chased metal mountings of the time of Louis XV., and other pieces
similarly mounted in the Jones collection.

CRACKLE WARE.–It would only create confusion to make a special class
for the many kinds of ware covered with a crackled glaze. It will be
remembered that we first came across glazes of this kind when describing
the Ko yao, the ‘ware of the Elder Brother,’ and a large class of
porcelain with white to yellowish grey glaze, always more or less
crackled, is still commonly known as Ko yao in China, so that ‘Crackle
ware’ and ‘Ko yao’ are in a measure equivalent terms. Such crackling may
vary from a division of the surface into large fissures several inches
in length, to the finest reticulation of minute lines hardly visible
without a glass. The first the Chinese compare to the cracks of ice, and
I think that it is to a variety of crackle with long spindle-shaped
divisions that they give the name of ‘crabs claw.’ The finer crackle
they know as ‘fish-roe‘–this is the _truité_ of the French. Certain
glazes, as the turquoise and the purple of the _demi grand feu_, are
always finely crackled. In other cases the crackling, which is caused,
as we have already said (p. 32), by the glaze after solidification
contracting more than the subjacent paste, may be produced or modified
at the will of the potter by adding various substances to the glaze. A
rock that has been identified with steatite has been often mentioned in
this connection, and the increase in the shrinkage of the glaze
attributed to the magnesia contained in it. Probably, however, a change
in the proportion of the silica to the alumina may be enough to bring
about a crackled glaze. The following extract from the letters of the
Père D’Entrecolles throws some light on this point. He tells us that
when the glaze is made of _cailloux blancs_ (probably little else than
felspar), without other mixture, we obtain the porcelain called
_Sui-ki_, or ‘shattered ware’ (this is the general Chinese term for
crackle), ‘marbled all over with an infinity of veins so as to look like
a piece of broken porcelain with the pieces remaining in their places.’
The glaze, we are told, is of a cindery white. We have here a
description of the Ko yao, which, however, seems to have been little
known in Europe at that time. To this class belong the vases with
yellowish grey ground and crackles of medium size. They are often
provided with mask handles and detached rings. These handles and rings,
as well as some broad bands round the neck, are covered, in imitation of
bronze, with a dark, roughened glaze. Another variety of this Ko yao is
decorated with scattered patches of white slip, laid on apparently over
the crackled glazed surface. On this slip is painted the design in
cobalt blue under what is apparently a second glaze. A frequent _motif_
on this ware is found in a series of horses in the strangest of
positions. These probably represent the eight famous steeds of the old
emperor Mu-wang. Both these classes of Ko yao are in great favour in
China and Japan as flower vases. The shapes and decorations are more or
less reminiscent of the old bronzes. It would seem that ware of this
kind is still manufactured at King-te-chen and perhaps somewhere in the
north of China also.

The brown glazes form a very distinct class. The well-known colour has
many names: in French _fond laque_; in Chinese _tzu-kin_, or ‘burnished
gold.’ It is also known as ‘dead leaf,’ but the average tint is perhaps
best described as _café au lait_. The Père D’Entrecolles, in mentioning
the _tzu-kin_, the colour of which he says is given by a ‘common yellow
earth,’ states that it was a recent invention in his time. He is perhaps
referring to some special tint, for the colour was well known in Ming
days. We have already spoken of the possible relation of this colour to


copper lustre of the fourteenth century Persian fayence. At a later time
in the seventeenth century it was a favourite colour with the Persians,
especially when decorated with delicate designs of flowers and ferns in
a thin white slip (PL. XVI.). It was largely exported at that time from
China and cleverly imitated in the fayence and frit-pastes of Persia.
Both the original Chinese ware and the Persian imitation are well
represented at South Kensington by specimens brought from the latter
country. This brown glaze is seldom found alone. It is a colour that
stands well the full heat of the furnace, and it may be combined with a
blue and white decoration or with bands of celadon. It forms the
ground-colour of the so-called Batavian ware, and at one time a brown
ring was by our ancestors held to be essential on the rim of a fine
plate or bowl of blue and white porcelain.

TURQUOISE AND PURPLE GLAZES.–As for the twin colours of the _demi grand
feu_ (the yellow in this group is quite subordinate), the so-called
turquoise (including the peacock green and kingfisher blue of the
Chinese) and the aubergine purple, the latter is seldom found alone.
Both colours are distinguished by a very fine-grained crackle. Of the
blue, when used as a single-glaze colour, we have spoken when describing
the glazes of the _demi grand feu_.

YELLOW MONOCHROME GLAZES.–There are many shades of yellow found on
Chinese porcelain: the imperial yellow of full yolk-of-egg tint, the
lemon yellow, the greenish ‘eel-skin,’ and the ‘boiled chestnut.’ Only
the first, the imperial yellow, is of importance as a monochrome glaze.
This is the colour first used in the time of the Ming emperor Hung-chi
(1487-1505), and his name is sometimes found on bowls and plates ranging
in colour from a bright mustard to a boiled chestnut tint. There are
some good specimens in the British Museum, and a curious piece, with a
Persian inscription, at South Kensington, has already been mentioned
when speaking of the reign of Hung-chi.

COBALT BLUE MONOCHROME GLAZES.–We may distinguish three varieties of
blue derived from cobalt, but the full sapphire of the blue and white
ware is not found as a monochrome glaze:–

1. The _Clair de lune_. The term _yueh-pai_, or moon-white, was applied
to more than one class of Sung porcelain, but above all to the Ju yao.
In later times, when these primitive wares were copied, the colour was
given by a minute quantity of cobalt, but it is very doubtful whether
that pigment was known in early Sung days. The _clair de lune_ glazes of
Nien were considered second in merit only to the copper reds of that
great viceroy. The uncrackled glazes of this class are often classed as

2. The Mazarin blue, known also as _bleu fouetté_ or powder-blue.[89]
This glaze is blown on to the surface of the raw paste, in the manner
described on page 30. It sometimes covers the whole surface, and is then
generally decorated with floral designs in gold, but more often it forms
the ground for vases and plates with large white reserves on which
designs in enamel colours are painted.

3. The _Gros Bleu_, in the form of large plates and vases, was a great
favourite with the Arabs and other Mohammedan races. This ware, too, was
often covered with a decoration of gold. There is a magnificent plate of
this class in the British Museum, and at South Kensington, in the India
Museum, a tall, dark-blue vase which we have already mentioned. From
Persia come many specimens of this deep blue ware, of a greyish or even
slaty tint, decorated, like the _fond laque_, with flowers in a white

BLACK GLAZES.–Very near to this last class of blue glazes we may place
the ‘metallic black,’ the _wu-chin_ of the Chinese. According to the
Père D’Entrecolles, this mirror-black is prepared by mixing with a glaze
containing much lime and some of the same ochry earth that gives the
colour to the brown glazes, a sufficient quantity of cobalt of poor
quality. In this case no second glaze is required, and the vessel is
fired in the _demi grand feu_, _i.e._ in the front of the furnace. Other
blacks are painted on and covered with a second glaze. The large
spherical vases with tall tubular necks show little trace generally of
the gold with which the black glaze was originally decorated.

GREEN GLAZES.–The peculiar tint of green, in varied intensity, that
distinguishes the _famille verte_ is seldom found as a single glaze; and
of the green Lang yao, made by Lang Ting-tso in the early part of the
reign of Kang-he, it is doubtful whether we have any representatives in
our European collections. This glaze is said to be somewhat in the style
of his more famous _sang de bœuf_.

The brilliant cucumber or apple-green of Ming times is shown in a pair
of exquisite little bowls in the British Museum. Over the green glaze
there is a scroll pattern of gold, and on the inside a blue decoration
under the glaze. Almost identical with these is the bowl set in a
silver-gilt mounting of English make dating from about the year 1540,
now preserved in the Gold Room (PL. V.). Of a similar but somewhat
deeper tint of green are the rare crackle vases, generally of small
size, of which there are specimens in the British Museum and in the
Salting collection.[90]

OLIVE AND BRONZE GLAZES.–The monochrome glazes of various shades of
olive and bronze are for the most part produced by a _soufflé_ process,
in which on a base of one colour a second colour is sprinkled. Thus to
form the ‘tea-dust’ a green glaze is blown over a reddish ground derived
from iron. The wonderful bronze glazes, of which there are good
specimens in the British Museum and in the Salting collection, are
produced in a similar way. But some of these (and the same may be said
of the ‘iron rusts‘) partake rather of the nature of the more elaborated
glazes of the _flambé_ class.

RED AND FLAMBÉ GLAZES (PL. XVII.).–We have left the red glazes to the
last, both from the complicated nature of the class and because one
variety, the _sang de bœuf_, forms a transition to the ‘splashed’ or
_flambé_ division. A red glaze or enamel, we have seen, can be produced
from three metals,–from gold, from copper, and from iron. With the
_Rose d’or_, which may be classed as a monochrome enamel, when used to
cover the backs of plates and bowls, we are not concerned here–it is
not properly a glaze in our sense of the word. The red derived from the
sesqui-oxide of iron was only successfully applied as a monochrome when,
at a late period, the difficulties attending its use were overcome by
combining the pigment with an alkaline flux. This is the _Mo-hung_ or
‘painted red’ of the muffle-stove, which was painted over the already
glazed ware, and therefore not properly itself a glaze. In fine
specimens it approaches to a vermilion colour; it is the jujube red of
the Chinese. It is with this colour, laid upon the elaborately modelled
paste, that the carved cinnabar lacquer is so wonderfully imitated.[91]

But it is the red derived from copper that presents the most points of
interest. Indeed we now enter upon a series of glazes, beginning with
the pure deep red of

[Illustration: _PLATE XVII._ CHINESE]

the _sang de bœuf_, and then passing over the line to the long series of
variegated or ‘transmutation‘[92] glazes that have more than any others
fascinated the modern amateurs of ceramic problems. We have already seen
how these magic effects are produced by carefully modulating the passage
of the oxidising currents through an otherwise smoky and reducing
atmosphere in the furnace (p. 42).

The typical _sang de bœuf_, or the ‘red of the sacrifice,’ as the
Chinese call it, was that made under the _régime_ of Lang Ting-tso a
forerunner of the three great directors of the imperial manufactory at
King-te-chen, and in later times it was always the aim of the potter to
imitate his work–the Lang yao–even in trifling details. According to
the Père D’Entrecolles, to obtain this red the Chinese made use of a
finely granulated copper which they obtained from the silver refiners,
and which therefore probably contained silver. Some other very
remarkable substances, he tells us, entered into the composition, but of
these it is the less necessary to speak, as he confesses that great
secrecy was maintained on the subject.

In looking carefully _into_ a glaze of this kind, the deep
colouring-matter is seen suspended in a more or less greenish or
yellowish transparent matrix, in the form of streaks and clots of a
nearly opaque material.[93] The hue, in general effect, varies from a
deep blood-red to various shades of orange and brown, but intimately
mixed with the red, certain bluish streaks are sometimes to be seen in
one part or another of the surface. The colours should stop evenly at
the rim and at the base, which parts, if this is achieved, are covered
with a transparent glaze of pale greenish or yellowish tint.

We have already seen that much depends upon the period of the firing at
which the glaze becomes liquid or soft, and upon the exact degree of
fluidity attained by it. Should the oxidising currents be allowed
further play at the critical period of the firing, the blue and greenish
stains and splashes will become more predominant, and we may either pass
over to the _flambé_ or ‘transmutation’ glazes, or finally the glaze may
become almost white and transparent.

But we must hark back to the wares of the Sung period, to the Chün yao,
to find the origin of these variegated glazes. These early Sung glazes
were copied in the time of Yung-cheng, and if we are to believe the
contemporary list, already quoted, of the objects copied, they were of a
very complicated nature. In this class of _flambé_ ware we must include
also a large part of the so-called _Yuan tsu_ (see p. 77), a heavy
kaolinic stoneware, certainly not all dating from the Yuan or Mongol
period–a ware, indeed, still common in the north of China. This ware is
roughly covered with a glaze of predominant lavender tint, speckled with
red, and thus approaches to the ‘robin’s egg’ glaze of the American
collector, though this latter is found on a finer porcelain of later

Another name which has been used to include many of these variegated
glazes is _Yao-pien_ or ‘furnace-transmutation.’ This last word very
well expresses the process by which the colour is developed, but it must
be remembered that this is not exactly the meaning that the word
_yao-pien_ conveys to the Chinese mind.[94] With this term the happy
accidents of the furnace were linked by the Père D’Entrecolles: he tells
us that it was proposed to make a sacrificial red, but that the vase
came from the furnace like a kind of agate. Dr. Bushell thinks that
most of the fine pieces of this ware date from the time of Yung-cheng
and Kien-lung (1722-1795), and he is of opinion that they were prepared
by a _soufflé_ process rather than by any ‘academic transformation’ of a
copper-red glaze. ‘The piece,’ he says, ‘coated with a greyish crackle
glaze or with a ferruginous enamel of yellowish-brown tone, has the
transmutation glaze applied at the same time as a kind of overcoat. It
is put on with the brush in various ways, in thick dashes not completely
covering the surface of the piece, or flecked as with the point of the
brush in a rain of drops. The piece is finally fired in a reducing
atmosphere, and the air, let in at the critical moment when the
materials are fully fused, imparts atoms of oxygen to the copper and
speckles the red base with points of green and turquoise blue’
(_Oriental Ceramic Art_, pp. 516-17). Some practical experiments lately
made in France would tend to show that the critical moment should be
placed a little earlier, _before_ the glaze is completely fused, for
after that point is reached the surrounding atmosphere has little
influence upon the metallic oxides in the glaze. It is to this
capricious action of the furnace gases that are due those wonderful
effects that may be observed in looking _into_ these glazes, curdled
masses of strange shapes and varying colour suspended in a more or less
transparent medium, and assuming at times those textures resembling
animal tissues which are graphically described by the Chinese as pig’s
liver or mule’s lungs. It must be understood that into many of the more
modern and _apprêtés_ specimens of _flambé_ ware the sources of the
violent contrasts of colour are found not only in the oxides of copper
and iron, but in those of cobalt and manganese also.

But in contrast to ‘the stern delights’ of these flamboyant wares there
is another kind of glaze, chemically closely allied, for it is also of
transmutation copper origin, of which the associations are of another
kind. This is the peach-bloom, the ‘apple-red and green,’ or again the
‘kidney-bean’ glaze of the Chinese. Although claiming an origin from
Ming times, this glaze is always associated with the great viceroy Tsang
Ying-hsuan. The little vases and water-vessels of a pale pinkish red,
more or less mottled and varying in intensity, are highly prized by
Chinese collectors.

DECORATION WITH SLIP.–There is a class of ware which might perhaps
claim a separate division for itself–I mean that decorated with an
_engobe_ or slip. We have already mentioned the most important cases
where this _engobe_ is applied to the surface of single-glazed wares:
these are, in the first place, the _fond laque_ (PL. XVI.), and in a
less degree certain blue and even white wares. The slip, of a cream-like
consistency, is as a rule painted on with a brush over the glaze,
generally, I think, after a preliminary firing.[95] This _engobe_ may
then itself be decorated with colours, as we have seen in the case of
the Ko yao, and the whole surface probably then covered with a second
glaze.[96] Sometimes when the ground itself is nearly white we get an
effect like the _bianco sopra bianco_ of Italian majolica. This
carefully prepared and finely ground _engobe_ contains, in some cases at
least, the same materials as those employed in the preparation of the
Sha-tai or ‘sand-bodied’ porcelain.

PIERCED OR OPEN-WORK DECORATION (PL. XVIII. 1).–We may here find place
for another kind of decoration, one much admired in Europe in the
eighteenth century.


This is obtained by piercing the paste so as to form an open-work
design, generally some simple diapered or key pattern, but sometimes
flowers or figures of cranes. The little apertures or windows thus
formed may be filled in by the glaze (if this is sufficiently viscous to
stretch across them) in the simple process of dipping. In this case the
glaze takes in part the place of the paste, and indeed in the closely
allied ‘Gombroon’ ware of Persia it is the thick, viscous glaze rather
than the friable sandy paste that holds the vessel together. It is the
plain white ware to which this decoration is generally applied in China.
There is one class where this pierced work is associated with groups of
little figures, in biscuit, in high or full relief–as is well
illustrated by a series of small cups in the Salting collection, some of
which bear traces of gilding and colours.

The term ‘rice-grain’ was originally applied to the open-work diapers
filled in with glaze. As a whole this kind of work may be referred to
the later part of the reign of Kien-lung, and especially to that of his
successor, Kia-king (1795-1820), so that it is not unlikely that the
Persian frit-ware, some of which is of earlier date, may have served as
a model.

BLUE AND WHITE WARE.–This is, on the whole, the most important as well
as the best defined class of Chinese porcelain. The Chinese name, _Ching
hua pai ti_ (literally ‘blue flowers white ground‘), defines its nature
well enough.

We have no information as to the origin and development of blue and
white porcelain in China, nor indeed do I know of any collection where
an attempt has been made to classify the vast material. We must here
content ourselves with a few notes which at best may indicate the ground
on which such a classification should be made. We have seen (p. 75)
that there is at least some presumptive evidence that the Chinese may
have derived their knowledge of the use of cobalt (as a material to
decorate the ground of their porcelain) from Western Asia, at a time
when both China and Persia were governed by one family of Mongol khans.
For we know now that in Syria or in Persia, in the twelfth or early in
the thirteenth century, a rough but artistic ware was painted with a
hasty decoration of cobalt blue and covered with a thick alkaline glaze;
while in China, at that time, we have no evidence for the existence of
any porcelain other than monochrome.

It is possible that the earliest Chinese type of the under-glaze blue
may be found in certain thick brownish crackle ware, decorated under the
glaze, in blue, with a few strokes of the brush. Plates and dishes of
this kind have been found in Borneo, associated with early types of
celadon.[97] A similar ware, not necessarily of great antiquity, is
often found in common use in the north of China and, I think, in Korea,
and with it we may perhaps associate the greyish-yellow Ko yao decorated
with patches of blue and white slip.

It is very likely that there would be a strong opposition on the part of
the Chinese literati to such a novel and exotic mode of decoration, but
that such opposition would be less felt in the case of ware made for
exportation, or it may be for use among the less conservative Mongols.
We have an instance of a similar feeling in the protest that we know was
made some two or three hundred years later against the application of
coloured enamels to the surface of porcelain.

Of the thousands of specimens of blue and white porcelain in our
collections there is probably no single piece for which we can claim a
date earlier than the fifteenth century. We can, however, distinguish


types among the examples, which for the reasons given on page 83 we may
safely assign to the Ming period. The first is distinguished by a pure
but pale blue, and the design (generally somewhat sparingly applied) is
carefully drawn with a fine brush. This, it would seem, was the ware
imitated by the Japanese at the princely kilns of Mikawaji. The other
type is distinguished by the depth and brilliancy of its colour, the
true sapphire tint, differing from the later blue of the eighteenth
century, in which there is always a purplish tendency. There are some
good specimens of this type in the British Museum, but we will take as
our standard a jar at South Kensington about twelve inches in height
(PL. XIX.). The remarkable thickness of the paste in this vase shown in
the neck, which has at some time been cut down, the marks of the
junction of the moulded pieces of which it was built up, the slight
patina developed in the surface of the glaze, are all signs that point
to an early origin. But what is above all noticeable is the jewel-like
brilliancy of the blue pigment with which the decoration–a design of
_kilin_ sporting under pine-trees–is painted.

When we come to the reign of Wan-li (1572-1619), to which time we may
assign the beginning of the direct exportation to Europe of Chinese
porcelain, a period of decline has already set in. The rare pieces of
blue and white so prized in Elizabethan and early Stuart days are in no
way remarkable either in their execution or in their decoration.

We come now to an important class of blue and white ware which looms out
large in many collections. I mean the big plates and jars with roughly
executed designs often showing a Persian influence. The blue is never
pure–indeed it is often little better than a slaty grey, and sometimes
almost black. Most of what the dealers now know as ‘Ming porcelain’ may
be included in this class. To understand the source of this porcelain we
must refer the reader to what we shall have to say in Chapter XIII.
about the trade of China with Persia in the time of Shah Abbas and with
the north of India, during the reigns of the great Mogul rulers of the
seventeenth century. The increasing demand from these countries
coincided with a period of decline in China, for the period between the
death of Wan-li in 1620 and the revival of the manufacture at
King-te-chen towards the end of that century, is almost a blank in the
history of Chinese porcelain. But the export trade that had sprung up at
the end of the sixteenth century was actively carried on in spite of the
political troubles, and at no other time was the nature of the ware
produced so largely influenced by the foreign demand. But this demand
was at first chiefly for the Mohammedan East, and what reached Europe
was mostly the result of re-exportation from India and from the Persian
Gulf.[98] This picturesque and decorative ware is well represented at
South Kensington by specimens obtained in Persia, and many fine pieces
have lately been brought from India. Of this class of blue and white
ware we have already spoken in a former chapter (see p. 84).

In Egypt, again, blue and white porcelain was greatly appreciated both
for decorative purposes and for common use. Large plates and dishes
painted with a scale-like pattern, formed of petals of flowers, are
still to be found in the old Arab houses of Cairo.

Already by the beginning of the seventeenth century plates and bowls of
the Sinico-Persian type must have reached Holland in large quantities,
and we find them frequently introduced into their pictures by the
still-life painters of the time. I will only give two examples: (1) A
large still-life at Dresden by Frans Snyders (1579-1657), where as many
as eight plates and bowls, mostly roughly decorated with a greyish
cobalt _sous couverte_, are introduced; (2) a small picture in the
Louvre by William Kalff (1621-1693). Here we see a large ‘ginger-jar’
with deep blue ground and white reserves. The porcelain introduced by
the Dutch painters is without exception of the blue and white class, and
in the earlier works the slaty blue tints are the most common.

But European influence must now and then have made itself felt in China
before this time, to judge by some large jars at Dresden decorated with
arabesques of unmistakable renaissance type. One of these has been
fitted with a lid of Delft ware, made to match the other covers of
Chinese origin, and this Dutch-made lid cannot be dated later than the
first half of the seventeenth century.[99]

But it is to the next age that the bulk of the vast collection of blue
and white brought together at Dresden by Augustus the Strong belongs.
The _lange Lijzen_, the famous dragon-vases, the large fish-bowls, and
the endless series of smaller objects collected by his agents from every
side, have made this royal collection a place of pilgrimage for all
china maniacs since his day. Not that the general average of the blue
and white ware is very high. We find here for the first time specimens
of the famous ‘hawthorn ginger-jars’ so dear to later collectors of
‘Nankin china.’ Of course this porcelain did not come from Nankin, the
jars were never used for ginger, and the decoration was not derived from
the hawthorn–a flower unknown in Chinese art. But it is in these jars
that the modern connoisseur, both in England and America, has found the
completest expression and highest triumph of the art of the Far East. No
words are too strong to express his enthusiasm. We are especially told
to look for a certain ‘palpitating quality’ in the blue ground. We hear
from Dr. Bushell that these ‘hawthorn jars’ are in China especially
associated with the New Year; filled with various objects they are then
given as presents. The decoration of prunus flowers (a species allied to
our blackthorn) is relieved against a background of ice, and it is the
rendering of this crackled ice in varying shades of blue that gives the
special _cachet_ to the ware.[100]

There is a curious variety of blue and white in which the outline of the
design is filled up by a hatching of cross-lines as in an engraving. The
prototype of this kind of decoration probably dates from Ming times, and
it may possibly be derived from some kind of textile.

ENAMEL COLOURS OVER THE GLAZE.–We have already attempted to follow the
stages by which the application of enamel colours over the glaze found
its way into general use. We saw that before the introduction of fusible
enamels melting at the gentle heat of the muffle-stove, somewhat similar
effects were obtained by painting with certain colours upon the already
fired body or paste–on a biscuit ground, in fact. The coloured slip
used in this way, differing in no respect from a true glaze, was then
subjected to a fire of medium intensity, that is to say, it was exposed
to the _demi grand feu_ of the kiln.

I think that the obscure problem of the nature of the coloured ware so
minutely described by Chinese writers and ascribed by them to early
Ming times, and the relation of this ware to the first forms of the
_famille verte_ can only find its solution by allowing a wider play to
the use of painting on biscuit and subsequent refiring, and that there
may probably have existed intermediate stages between the _demi grand
feu_ and the fully developed muffle-stove. It is indeed possible that
the same pieces may have successively been exposed to both these

The curious bowl, of very archaic aspect, lately added to the Salting
collection (see note, p. 89), illustrates well the difficulties in
accepting as final a decision as to date based upon the nature of the
enamel. This bowl bears the nien-hao of Ching-te (1505-21), and may well
date from that time, but among the enamel colours over the glaze we find
a cobalt blue (of a poor lavender tint indeed); we are told, however,
that the use of cobalt as an enamel colour was unknown before the time
of Kang-he.[102]

Of the many schemes and varieties of decoration that crop up in the
course of the eighteenth century as a consequence of the increased
palette at the command of the enameller and of the miscellaneous demand
for foreign countries, we have already said something. Many important
types must remain unmentioned, and some are indeed scarcely represented
in our home collections. Of this I will give, in conclusion, a striking
instance. In the whole of the great collection at Dresden, now so
admirably arranged by Dr. Zimmermann, there is perhaps nothing more
striking than the circular stand covered with a trophy of large vases,
the decoration of which, though bold in general effect, is entirely
built up by fine lines of iron-red helped out by a little gold. These
vases, from their fine technique, I should assign to the end of the
reign of Kang-he, or possibly to that of Yung-cheng (1722-35). It is a
curious fact that by these parallel lines of iron-red an effect is
produced at a distance very similar to that obtained by a wash of the
_rouge d’or_. Possibly the aim was to imitate that colour. I have seen a
similar effect produced by red hatching on some English ware of the
eighteenth century. I do not think that this porcelain was made for the
Persian market, as has been asserted, for in that case we should find
specimens of it in the South Kensington collection.[103] There is, I
think, only one example of this ware in the British Museum, and in the
Salting collection only a pair of insignificant cups and saucers. On the
other hand, in the Dresden collection, whole classes even of eighteenth
century wares are unrepresented. I mention these facts to accentuate the
vast field covered by Chinese porcelain. It must be borne in mind that
the Chinese manufactured for the whole civilised world, and that the
taste and fashion in each country influenced, though often very
indirectly, and in a way not always to be recognised at first sight, the
forms and the decoration of the objects exported to it. This influence,
making for variety and change, has been in constant conflict with, and
has counteracted, the native conservative habit. It is an influence that
has probably made itself felt from very early days, but it culminated in
the eighteenth century. Indeed the rapid decline of Chinese porcelain
that set in before the end of that century was in no small degree
promoted by the unintelligent demand from Western countries at that

We shall later on have to look upon this question

[Illustration: Plate XX.

_Chinese Design in red and gold._]

from a reversed point of view, and we shall have to notice how the
fictile wares of other countries were influenced, and finally in part
replaced by the products of the kilns of King-te-chen. For in any
general history of porcelain this influence of the East upon the West,
together with the return current from West to East, is the central
question. By bearing in mind these mutual influences a simplicity and
unity are given to this history which we might look for in vain in that
of any other art of equal importance.

How the porcelain of King-te-chen found its way at first to the
surrounding minor states–to Korea, to Indo-China, and to Japan–and was
more or less successfully copied in these countries; how, on the other
hand, in India and in Persia the foreign ware, though long in general
use, was never imitated;[104] and how, finally, after reaching the
Christian West this porcelain influenced and in part replaced the
homemade fayence, even before the secret of its composition was
discovered–these, I think, are the prime factors in the history of

It will, however, be convenient to say something of the porcelain made
in the surrounding countries, especially in Japan, before taking up the
subject of the Chinese commerce with Europe, for this reason among
others: the products of the Japanese kilns became so inextricably mixed
up with those of King-te-chen in the course of their journey to the
West, that it would be impossible to treat of the one class apart from
the other.

But before ending with the porcelain of China we must take a rapid
glance at a large and complicated group–that decorated wholly or in
part in European style.

Quite early in the century, perhaps before 1700, figures and groups in
plain white ware, for the most part attired in the European costume of
the day, were exported from China. Many of these grotesque figures may
be seen in the great Dresden collection, and a few in the British
Museum. Later on it became the fashion for the European merchants at
Canton to supply the native enamellers of that city with engravings, to
be copied by them in colours on the white ware sent down from
King-te-chen. In other cases the captain of a Dutch or English vessel
lying in the Canton roads would employ a native artist to decorate a
plate or dish with a picture of his good ship.

But the most frequent task given to these Canton enamellers was the
reproduction of elaborate coats of arms upon the centre of a plate or
dish, or sometimes upon a whole dinner-service. There is in the British
Museum a remarkable collection of this armorial china, brought together
for the most part by the late Sir A. W. Franks.[105] Orders came not
from England alone, but from Holland, Sweden, Germany, and even Russia.
Services were thus decorated for Frederick the Great and other royal
heads. The practice seems to have been kept up during the whole of the
eighteenth century, but we do not know the precise date at which it was
introduced. In a few cases–the large Talbot plate in the British Museum
is an instance (PL. XXI.)–the arms were painted in blue under the
glaze, and such decoration was probably executed at King-te-chen. The
small plate with the Okeover arms in the same collection was, according
to the family tradition, ordered as early as the year 1700, but the
decoration in my opinion would undoubtedly point to a later date[106]
(PL. XII. 2).


It is hardly necessary at the present day to mention that this armorial
china has nothing to do with Lowestoft. A fictitious interest was,
however, long given to this ware by its strange attribution to that

Much Chinese porcelain, either plain white or sparely decorated under
the glaze with blue, was imported during the eighteenth century, to be
daubed over, often in the worst taste, with a profusion of gaudy
colours, in Holland, in Germany, and in England. At Venice, too, the
plain Oriental ware was at one time elaborately painted with a black

More interest attaches to the porcelain enamelled at Canton for the
Indian market. The Chinese seem in some way to have associated the
_yang-tsai_ or ‘foreign colours’ with the enamels made in the south of
India, especially at Calicut, and it is possible that Indian patterns
and schemes of colour may have influenced some of the developments of
the _famille rose_. The Canton enamellers must at the same time have
been working on the richly decorated ware for the Siamese market, but it
is on their enamel paintings on copper that the Indo-Siamese influence
is chiefly seen (see next chapter).

Nor were these exotic schemes of decoration confined to the Canton
enamellers. At more than one time there was something like a rage for
copying foreign designs–Japanese, among others–at King-te-chen, and
that not for trade purposes alone, for as we have mentioned already,
both Kang-he and Kien-lung seem to have taken a passing interest in the
strange productions of the outer barbarian.

Of the many kinds of ceramic wares made in different parts of China
which from the opacity of the paste we cannot class as porcelain, we can
only mention two, both of which would probably come under the head of
our kaolinic stoneware:–1. The YI-HSING YAO, made at a place of that
name not far from Shanghai, which includes the red unglazed ware,
esteemed by the Chinese for the brewing of tea. This is the so-called
Boccaro successfully copied by Böttger. Sometimes we find this stoneware
painted with enamel colours thickly laid on, and the design is often
accentuated by ridges or _cloisons_. 2. The KUANG YAO, of which there
are two classes. The ware made near Amoy is a yellowish to brownish
stoneware, thickly glazed and rudely decorated. This coarse pottery is
much in favour with the Chinese colonists in America and elsewhere.
Again in the south of the province of Kuang-tung, at Yang-chiang-hsien,
a reddish stoneware has long been made. It is covered with a thick
glaze, often mottled, more or less blue, and sometimes resembling the
_flambé_ glazes of King-te-chen. Indeed this Kuang yao at one time was
copied at the latter place.[107] It is often stated that true porcelain
was made in Kuang-tung, but the evidence on the whole is against this.
We will quote, however, what the Abbé Raynal says (_Histoire du Commerce
des Européens dans les Deux Indes_, 1770). He states that competition
with King-te-chen had been abandoned ‘excepté au voisinage de Canton, où
on fabrique la porcelaine connue sous le nom de porcelaine des Indes. La
pâte en est longue et facile; mais en général les couleurs sont très
inférieures. Toutes les couleurs, excepté le bleu, y relèvent en bosse
et sont communément mal appliquées. La plupart des tasses, des assiettes
et des autres vases que portent nos négocians, sortent de cette
manufacture, moins estimée à la Chine que ne le sont dans nos contrées
celles de fayence.‘[108] Compare with this what we have said about the
rough porcelain exported to India in the seventeenth century (p. 85).

Since the extinction of the Ting kilns an opaque white stoneware has
been largely manufactured in the north, and near Pekin a commoner
earthenware is largely made (Bushell, pp. 631-638).

The bricks with which the Porcelain Tower of Nankin was constructed were
for the most part composed of a kaolinic stoneware.

Finally, we should point out that nearly all these various kinds of
stoneware are represented in the British Museum collection.