Chapter IX Porcelain of Yuan Dynasty
In 1279, Kublai Khan took over political power from the Zhao Family of Song Dynasty in the south, controlled and unified the entire country and ended the separation among Song, Jin and Western Xia. The prosperity of commodity economy stimulated the development of handicraft, the town of Jingdezhen became a center of porcelain production and export of procelain was on a larger scale.
A new type of kiln emerged in the Yuan Dynasty—a kiln of multi-chambers. Such kiln was usually built on mountain slope of 12-20 degrees; the kiln was almost 60 meters in length and 2-3 meters in width and had 17 chambers. Such kiln was of bigger capacity, different kinds of clay bodies could be burnt at the same time.
Section I   Blue and White
The production of blue and white matured in Yuan Dynasty. Blue and white became well-known both home and abroad for its white inner body, thick wall, bigger size and heavy weight. Because of impurities, there are small ferrous brownish dots on the inner body, the bottom of its stand was not glazed and there are often red dots on it. The white glaze of Yuan was a bit grey, but glittering, yet there are sometimes tear like droops of glaze.
Imported colorant was used in Yuan Dynasty, which contained not only cobalt, but also ferric oxide and maganese, and was used as shades of grey on the surface glaze on densely layout of patterns on bigger size wares. Domestically produced blue colorant was used mostly on small wares.











Wine pot with a peony pattern of Yuan

Density and multi-layer are the features of the patterns of Yuan porcelain. Most blue and white of Yuan have low and round stand, the bottom of stand and the inside of lids are not glazed. Most common Yuan blue and white wares are:

Plum vase (Méi Píng in Chinese) with lid—which was used as a wine pot at the beginning, at a later date as a vase and decorative ware. It has a small opening and a broad shoulder like the picture below.
Jade Pot/Spring Vase (Yù Hú Chn Píng in Chinese) its opening extends out, it has a long neck like the first picture on the upper left.

A jar with dragon and peony of Yuan
Ever since blue and white came into being, most production at that time in China was blue and white, for it is easier for mass production, unlike celadon, white porcelain and other single color glaze porcelain.
Section II   Underglazed Red
Jingdezhen porcelain artisans invented underglazed red in the Yuan Dynasty at the same time of blue and white. The two have been regarded as two flowers on the same stem.
To produce underglazed red, copper oxide was used as the colorant. It was difficult to produce the underglazed red, it had to be the right temperature, if the temperature was lower, the glazed would be green or coffee brown, if it was too high, the red would look difused and foggy. What you do is to apply a layer of transparent glaze over the design you have painted with copper oxide and then burn it. The underglazed red looks vivid, auspicious and joyful.
There are three ways to paint the copper red. The most difficult one is to draw lines of the design only, for the red may become foggy and it requires a strict high temperature; the second way is to leave the pattern on the white inner body and paint the copper red on the rest of the body and the third way was to paint the patterns with copper red directly. The color has to be stable for wares from the same kiln and the pattern should be clear, otherwise the product is not qualified.
This picture shows a combination of blue and white with underglazed red, a new method of production that also emerged in the Yuan Dynasty.
Section III   Glaze of Goose Egg White
This is another creation by Jingdezhen, which has a thick and heavy wall, hard inner body and fine texture; and thicker glaze, which is not transparent, the glaze is greyish white like the white of a goose egg. This product was also called “Privy Council Wares”, it was said that these producted were ordered by the “Privy Council” of the Yuan Dynasty, the highest military authority. Goose egg white glaze paved ways for the sweet white glaze of Ming Dynasty and for multi-color paints both under and above the glaze. The picture below is a sample of a vase in goose egg white glaze.

The round stand of Privy Council porcelain is smaller, yet its wall is thicker and there is no glaze on its inside. There are often small raised spots on the surface of the bottom, which are the ends of support for burning, which are usually called chicken heart dots. Popular patterns are clouds with dragon, pheonix, crane, peacock, butter flies and intertwined branches.




Section IV   Bluish White Porcelain
The production of bluish white glazed porcelain,which saw its prime in the Song Dynasty, continued into the Yuan period. Aside from Jingdezhen, there were productions in Fujian and Guangdong and other places as well. What was different was that the contain of aluminium oxide was higher in the clay, the burning temperature was higher, the inner body was whiter. A small amount of plant ash was added into the glaze, which contained more potassium and sodium with less calcium oxide, and glaze was more sticky and not transparent. Aside from bowls, plates, vases, incense burners, jars and pillows, there were also flat pot, pot in shape of gourd. All of them were thick and heavy with thinner layer of glaze.
Section V   Blue Glaze
This was also a new invention by Jingdezhen, which was to apply cobalt onto the clay body already made and the blue color was very fresh after burning and baking. The blue color was also matched by gold or white flowers. Fine examples of these blue glazed porcelain are the plate in blue glaze with white dragon pattern collected by the Palace Museum of Beijing (the picture on the left below) and the plum vase in blue glaze with white dragon pattern collected by Yangzhou Museum (the picture on the right below).
Previous >Chapter VIII Porcelain of Liao, Jin and Xia Dynasties

Next >Chapter X Porcelain of Ming Dynasty