Blue and White Porcelain

Blue and white porcelain means that wares made of white pottery and porcelain are decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, by stenciling or by transfer-printing. As for the technique of cobalt blue decorations, it seems to have come from the Middle-East in the 9th century through decorative experimentation on white ware. The cobalt blue pigments were excavated from local mines in the central Iran, and then were exported as a raw material to China.

The blue-and-white technique was fully developed in China with porcelain technology in the 14th century. Baking blue-white porcelain originated in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). During the Yuan and Ming dynasties (1271-1644), blue-white porcelain became increasingly popular, and since the 14th century, manufacturers have shipped blue-white porcelain to world markets. Blue-white porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty is large, with thick roughcast. Generally, the works include big bottles, pots, bowls and plates, with the traditional flavor of the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties. There are bamboo-like lines at the foot of the porcelain. The body is connected to the foot before the glaze is coated. The body is decorated with lotuses, clouds and flowers. Dense decorations were not only applied to blue-white porcelain but also to picture weaving and stone carving, reflecting the unique characteristics of the time. The porcelain reached its peak in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Due to the underdeveloped techniques, there are two interfaces on the body and several veins inside the body. The roughcast is not as smooth as that of the Ming and Qing dynasties and the glaze is thicker due to more iron in the raw glaze materials. Its thin, translucent quality and exotic motifs made it very valuable throughout Europe and the colonies, ranking first among blue-white porcelain nationwide.

Drawing the design with a cobalt pigment onto the stoneware body and painting over it with a transparent glaze creates the blue-white style, also known as “underglazed blue”. The piece is then fired at a high temperature. Blue-white porcelain was introduced during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and has been in production ever since thanks to its bright colors, simple yet elegant patterns, and smooth glaze that never fades.

In terms of the pattern, the willow pattern is the most famous. The willow pattern, said to tell the sad story of a pair of star-crossed lovers, was an entirely European design, though one that was strongly influenced in style by design features borrowed from Chinese export porcelains of the 18th Century. The willow pattern was, in turn, copied by Chinese potters, but with the decoration hand painted rather than transfer-printed. Besides porcelain wares, the blue and white patterns are popular applied to clothing, articles for daily use, such as bookmarks, pens and cushions etc. Its elegance is beloved by most of the people.

The major producer of blue-white porcelain in the Yuan Dynasty was Jingdezhen. In 1979 Jingdezhen blue-white porcelain won a national golden prize and in 1985 it was honored with three gold medals at international fairs held in Leipzig, Brno, etc. Since then, the name “Jingdezhen Blue-white Porcelain” has spread far and wide. By far, it is a top product in the porcelain business, boasting the most prizes and highest standards.

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