” The ancient chronicles of China cite the Emperor Hoang-ti as the inventor of pottery, and date his reign from 2698 B. C. During this reign there is mention of an Intendant of Potteries named Ning-fong-tse. Later we read that in the year 2255 B. C., Chun, before becoming emperor, made pottery near Thing-thao, in the province of Shan-tung. Authors generally agree that vases of burnt earthenware originated during this reign, and continued to be called Pi-khi (vases of pottery) until ths Thsin and Han dynasties (249202 B. C.) From this and other facts we conclude that porcelain was not invented until the time of the Han dynasty, when it appeared in the Sin-p’ing district, founded 185 B. C. by the Emperor Kao-ti. For many years progress in its manufacture seems to have been very slow, as the next mention we find is under the first of the Wei (A. D. 220264), when it reappeared in the province of Shen-se and at Lo-yang in Hou-nan. We find under the Tsins (A. D. 265419) the bare fact mentioned that for a long time porcelain had been made at Wen-Tcheou-Fou, in the province of Tche-Kiang.
The next date is that of A. D. 583, in the period Tchite of the Tchins, when a royal decree ordered the inhabitants of the country where is now located King-te-tching, to make porcelain for the use of the Emperor. From this period (A. D. 583) we find mentioned the names of work-men and their specialties.. Thus Ho-tcheou (A. D. 581618) was celebrated for making vases of a beautiful green color, and the works of Thao-yu were called “vases of artificial jade.”.
In the period Wou-te (A. D. 621), Ho-thong-thsou made porcelain, with a white matrix, as brilliant as jade.
He was from Sin-p’ing in Ho-nan where the first porcelain was produced. For over three centuries we find no mention of any special artist; but about A. D. 954, in the period Hien-te, the Emperor Tchi-tsong issued an order that porcelain for the use of the palace should be made the color of the ” sky seen between the clouds after rain “; hence the name Yu-kouo-thien-tsing (blue of the sky after rain). Chinese authors say this porcelain was “as blue as the sky, brilliant as a mirror, thin as paper, resonant as a Khing (musical instrument), polished and brilliant, and was distinguished as much for the fineness of its crackle as for the beauty of its color.” These objects were so much prized in after years that the fragments were worn as amulets.
About the same period (A. D. 960) lived the brothers Tchang. The elder used a brown paste and made objects very thin of dark and light blue; the enamel, beautifully crackled, had the appearance of fishes’ eggs. During the years 1275 to 1279, under the Tsongs, artists tried in vain to imitate his work. The younger brother made pieces of the same colors, but not crackled ; his enamel appeared to be sprinkled with dew. Also under the Tsongs, from 96o to 1126, a family called Tseou made vases ” thin, brilliant, of a surpassing whiteness, and of pure and graceful forms.” During the same period, at the village of Liu-ling, lived a father and daughter named Chu, who produced curiosities in porcelain, such as birds, animals, etc. The daughter surpassed the father in workmanship. When the Tsongs passed into the south, a magistrate established, in the new capital, about 1127, a small factory, and made from a very pure clay pieces brilliant in color with transparent enamel. From 1260 to 1349, under the Mongols, we find only one maker mentioned, Pong-kiun-pao. He was at first a gilder, but afterwards made very thin vases of a solid blue color, in imitation of the ancient Ting vases.
We now reach the Ming dynasty (13681649), under whom all the arts attained their highest development. The first artist mentioned is Lo, in the period Siouen-te (1426-1435), who made vases decorated with cricket fights, a favorite amusement of the period. Two sisters, named Sieou, also produced the same subjects with the sketches engraved in the paste. Under Tching-hoa (14651487) vases and jars decorated with peonies and chickens were produced, and the supply of azure blue was exhausted. Under Tching-te (15061522) cobalt blue, ” Hoei-tsing,” was discovered, and, by command, used to decorate the imperial porcelain. This Hoei-tsing was crushed with hammers. The finest quality showed bright red spots, the second little silvered flakes. It was also called great blue ” and ” blue of the head of Buddha.”
From 1522 to 1572 the work of a very skilful artist, Tsoui-kong, was much sought after, who imitated success-fully the old pieces. But the master imitator was Tcheoutan-thsiouen, who lived in the reigns of Long-khing (15671572) and Wan-li (15731619). He worked at King-te-tching, and produced a great variety of objects, much sought after by connoisseurs and bought at fabulous prices. It is told of him that, once on a visit to Thang, the president of the sacrifices, he asked permission to examine carefully a tripod of porcelain which Thang valued very highly. He measured it carefully with his hands and took impressions of its surface upon sheets of paper, which he hid in his sleeve. Six months after he revisited Thang, and drawing from his sleeve a tripod, said, ” Your excellency possesses a tripod in white porcelain by Ting ; I also have one.” Thang was overwhelmed with astonishment, and assured himself the two were the same in every detail. Tcheou then added, ” I do not wish to deceive you ; mine is but an imitation of yours, made from measurements taken six months ago.” Thang, satisfied of the truth of this, bought the reproduction for sixty dollars, and very soon afterwards sold it to Thou-Khieou for fifteen hundred.
In the period Wan-li (1573-1619) lived another distinguished imitator of ancient works, Ngeou-Kong. His principal reproductions were the crackled porcelain of the elder Tchang, the ” porcelain of the Magistrates” and of Kiun. In the same period lived Ou-in-tao-jin (the old man who lives in retreat). He made bowls decorated with diapered clouds, and the celebrated egg-shell porcelain cups, each of which weighed only three-quarters of a gramme, and commanded any price. He also made vases called Ou, of a pale blue, and imitated the works of the Tchangs, excepting the crackle. He also made vases which were purple in. color or like ” dead leaves.” Under every piece he signed his full name. In the period Khang-hi (1662-1722) an oily clay was used which produced very thin porcelain. The principal colors of its decoration were green of the serpent’s skin, eel yellow, azure blue, and yellow spotted. Vases were made on which the enamel was of a pale yellow, pale violet, pale green, and of red or blue souffle. In the periodYong-tching (1723-1735) they made at King-te-tching, pieces of the color of an egg as brilliant as silver, also of solid blue and other colors, and a few were decorated with flowers in relief, engraved or flat.
The period Keen-long (1736-1795) commenced the renaissance of Chinese ceramic art. In 1728 Thangkong was employed under the Assistant Director Nien at King-te-tching and very soon infused new life into the work. He produced excellent imitations of ancient pieces, and invented many new ones. His colors were pure and his execution excellent. Understanding thoroughly the nature of the stones and clays, he used them to the best advantage. He had also mastered the intricacies of the ovens, and reproduced all the fine enamels. The Emperor by special decree directed him to illustrate the manufacture of porcelain by twenty-two plates.