When Europe was still trying to establish its own identity China was already a civilised country. During the MING DYNASTY and the reign of eleven Emperors ( 1368-1644 ) BLANC DE CHINE or white porcelain was being developed. The white can vary from a mellow creamy colour to a blueish white.
The Europeans liked a bit of colour so the export wares were painted with flower motives. Golden Yellow was the Imperial colour.
The Emperor Shunzhi reigned from 1644 til 1661. His successor Kangxi (1662-1723 ) had bright ideas of manufacturing a different looking porcelain and the FAMILLE ROSE/VERTE and NOIR were created which was much more interesting with bright colours and motives such as Pagodas, birds, animals and human figures. These were used on vases, sweetmeat dishes etc. Many of the small figures were serving as joss-stick holders. For example three-legged toads, Buddhist lions and Fo Dogs. These wares are still very much in demand.
Earlier Chinese wares were blue on a white ground. The blue pigment was the only colour that survived in the very hot kilns. The blue and white WILLOW pattern became popular in the West. During the 18th century the factories in England were soon imitating this motive and it is still a `classic` for table ware. CANTON was the city which was the main hub for export to Europe. The porcelain was packed in tea to protect it from damage. The NANKING CARGO consisted of Chinese porcelain salvaged from the `GELDERMALSEN` a Dutch East India Man. While the ship was transporting the blue and white tableware to Europe it sank in the South China Sea in 1752.
A British sea captain who was also a treasure hunter discovered the sunken ship in 1985. He raised to the surface what had become the most celebrated find of precious porcelain ever made. A huge selection from delicate tea bowls to plates and dishes were recovered. The treasures were auctioneered in London for millions of Pound Sterling.
Japan was quite late in adopting the art of porcelain, well into the 17th century. Introduced by Korean immigrants who had learned their skills in China, They settled mainly in the KUTANI area. Suitable clays had been discovered in KYUSHU in 1616. In the same year the potter KAKIEMON settled in ARITA. Kakiemon ware is very distinctive because of the delicate colours on flawless white porcelain (NIGOSHIDE )
Kakiemon had discovered the red over glaze but his son also called Kakiemon continued experimenting until he found the perfect formula sometime between 1660 and 1690. Variations of this red glaze were used in the West but not until the early 20th century. The history of the coveted Danish Copenhagen porcelain will be covered in a future BLOG. Their designs were very much inspired by the porcelain of China and Japan.