Chinese Porcelain Factories

The names of no less than fifty-seven manufactories of porcelain are recorded. In locating these we will use the eighteen provinces into which the Central Empire was divided under the reign of Keen-long, thirteen of which contained porcelain factories.

I. In the province of Chi-li there are five. The most important is that of Ting-tcheou, founded soon after A. D. 96o, under the Northern Tsongs (96o-1126), during which period the best work was made. Pieces are mentioned in colored enamels, white, red, violet, and black, also pieces with tracings of flowers and in solid colors.

II. In the province of Kiang-nan five factories are named. The only one worthy of mention is So-tcheou, where they imitated with great success the porcelain of Ting-tcheou, also of the period of the Tsongs.

III. In Shan-se there were five, none of which produced very fine work.

IV. In Chan-tong there were two factories.

V. In the province of Ho-nan there were thirteen. Four of these, Hoai-khing-fou, Chen-tcheou, I-yang, and Teng-fong, were founded during the period of the Mings (1368-1644), and are still producing. At Sin-p’ing the first recorded porcelain was made between the years 185 B. C. and A. D. 88. The finest objects were made at Joutcheou, founded under the Tsongs. It was here they produced the ” blue of the sky after rain.”

The accepted judges of to-day rank the different porcelains as follows:

1st. Tch’ai-yao (Tch’ai being the family name of the Emperor Chi-tsong), or porcelain of Tch’ai made at Jou-tcheou in Honan.

2d. Jou-yao, or porcelain made at Jou-tcheou in Honan.

3d. Kouan-yao, or porcelain of the magistrates, made at Hang in Tche-Kiang.

4th. Ko-yao, or porcelain of the eldest son, that is of Tchang, the eldest.

5th. Ting-yao, those of Ting-tcheou.

The Tch’ai porcelain has long since passed out of commerce, and if even a fragment is found it is worn as an amulet. An ancient author says of it: ” The fragments of Tch’ai porcelain dazzled your eyes like precious stones, and its rays turned aside the fatal arrow.” Such expressions indicate how much this porcelain was esteemed.

VI. In the province of Shen-se were four factories, of which, Yao-tcheou was noted for its white under the Tsongs, and Hien-yang furnished porcelain to the emperors under the Wei (A. D. 220-265).

VII. In the province of Kan-souh there was one factory.

VIII. In the province of Tche-keang were eight, among which were noted : A factory in the department of Hang-tcheou-fou, where, between the years A. D. 1004-1126, were produced the celebrated crackled pieces known as Kouan-yao, or for the use of magistrates. A factory in the department of Chao-hing-fou, at Yu-yao, made the celebrated porcelain called Pi-se-tse or porcelain of hid-den color, because it was made for the emperors alone (A. D. 1127-1279). The factory of Long-thsiouen, which existed in 960, and where, in 1279, Sing-eul produced his work: This factory gave its name to the very celebrated porcelain called Long-thsiouen, which is now imitated at King-te-tching. Pere d’Entrecolles says ” this porcelain was mentioned as olive green, but some of it is certainly light and dark blue.”

IX. In the province of Keang-si there were eight factories, only one of which produoed remarkable work. This was King-te-tching, where porcelain was made as early as A. D. 583, and which in 1004 was named ” The Imperial Factory.” It soon outstripped all competitors, and to the present day has continued to produce every variety of work from the cheapest to the most expensive.

X. In the province of Sze-chuen only one factory is mentioned.

XI. In the province of Fuh-keen we find two barely mentioned, one founded previous to 1200, and the other about 1368.

XII. The province of Kwang-tong had but one factory.

XIII. The province of Hou-nan had two, one established about A. D. 96o, the other previous to A. D. 618.

The History of Feou-leam, the district to which Kingte-tching belongs, published first in 1325, in enumerating the quantity of porcelain furnished to the Emperor, re-counts that there were thirty-one thousand dishes with flowers ; sixteen thousand white plates with blue dragons ; eighteen thousand four hundred cups for wine, with flowers and two dragons in the clouds ; eleven thousand two hundred and fifty dishes of white ground with blue flowers, and dragons, holding the two words Fo (happiness) and Cheou (longevity) in their claws. King-te-tching porcelain has been celebrated since the time of the Tchin (A. D. 557-588), or nearly four hundred and fifty years before it was made the imperial factory.

The vases, which were made of selected material and finely finished at King-te-tching, were called Kouan-kou or “vases of the magistrates.” They are of various shapes and decoration, and have received this name because they are worthy of being used by the magistrates. These objects must not be confounded with the ” porcelain of the magistrates,” made under the Tsongs (A. D. 96o-1279), at Pien, in Ho-nan, and at Hang, in Tche-keang. Objects are made at King-te-tching which are first glazed on one side, after which the body paste is ground to exceeding thinness, and even in some cases entirely removed, thus leaving an object formed of glaze alone. Objects made for the foreign market are known as “objects of the seas,” and nearly all are sent to Canton, to be sold to the “devils of the seas,” by which title Europeans and Americans are known. ” The Book about Tea” (Tch’a-king) tells us that yellow cups are not desirable for tea, as they give it a brown appearance.

They also had at King-te-tching, under the Mings, certain ovens which were known as ” ovens for large jars decorated with dragons.” Of such jars we find mentioned the following : blue jars for flowers, on which were painted the precious images of two dragons playing in the clouds ; large blue jars ornamented with two dragons in the clouds and with lotus flowers ; white jars with blue flowers ; large jars decorated with four blue dragons arranged around the vase and playing in the waters of the rising tide; large blue jars for fish ; porcelain jars of the color of “little green peas.”

Under Yong-tching (1723–1735) of the Thsing dynasty commenced the systematic imitation of ancient pieces and the renaissance of art, both of which were developed under the following reign of Keen-long (1736-1795). The new colors and process introduced at King-te-tching under this latter reign were as follows : European violet enamel ; blue enamel called Fa-tsing-; vases with a browned silver ground ; black enamelled ground ; brilliant black of Europe; painting with enamel; black ground with European enamel; white flowers on a black ground; gold drawings on a black ground ; porcelain of the blue of the sky (?) ; enamel which changes in the firing.

All of these new discoveries, and all the good work done in this reign at King-te-tching are due to Thang-kong, who had been employed since 1728 by Nien, the assistant Director, who also personally experimented and supervised the work.”