Chinese Pottery Between the Han and Song Dynasties

     The four hundred years following the fall of the Han dynasty (i.e. the 3rd to 7th centuries A.D.) witnessed a tumultuous period in Chinese history, marked by a long division of China into the Wei, Chin, Northern and Southern dynasties. These circumstances encouraged increased communication and interchange between the folk cultures and lifestyles of various regions, which led to new developments in pottery design. In the north, remnants of the old Han styles combined with the new influences of Buddhism and the  indigene styles of newly-arrived migrant nomad peoples to form new and distinctive types of pottery; on the other hand, the south of China, focusing around Chou high-fired stoneware tradition as well as the Eastern Han green-glazed ware tradition. In the Chin dynasty, green-glazed ware came to be used not only for articles for daily use, such as pitchers, jars and dishes, but also for ritual burial objects, the majority of which were made of green-glazed ware in this period. The shapes of the vessels favored in the south also differed considerably from those to be found in the north; many uniquely shaped vessels were developed in the south, including the chicken-head pitcher, the shen-t'ing (a type of vase crowned with human figures and buildings) and the frog-shaped vessel. The Chekiang region, with its favorable natural conditions and its rich and ancient tradition of pottery craft, set the stage for the later development of the exquisite green-glazed ware to be produced by the Yueh-chou kilns in the Tang and Five Dynasties periods.

     During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the political center of the empire was located in Shensi and Honan, and this was also the seat of white porcelain production. This created a localization of speciality characterized as "white in the north, celadon in the south." The most distinctive pottery of the Tang dynasty, Tang three-color glazed ware, with its plump full shapes and ornate florid coloring, gives a vivid concrete impression of the flourishing power and prosperity of the Tang empire at its height. The political stability, population growth and expansion of the middle-class which marked the Tang dynasty led to continual improvements in the art of pottery. Renowned kilns sprang up all over the empire, producing wares named after their locations such as Hsing-chou ware, Yueh-chou ware and Wu-chou ware.

     With the political turmoil following upon the demise of the Tang, all the kilns fell into decline, with the single exception of the Yueh-chou kiln of the Wu-yueh region, managed by the Ch'ien family, which alone continued to flourish.

( extracted from exhibition catalogue of  National Palace Museum )


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