On last month’s newsletter, we learn about the long history of China and its Dynasties. For centuries, their battles and places have inspired many scholars and writers until today. This month newsletter, we will learn about unique Chinese arts and crafts. Many of the generations around the world enjoy the beauty of ceramics and silks.
Although pottery is not unique to China and was a vital part of many ancient cultures, when one thinks of Chinese artifacts, it is hard not to think of the signature blue and white porcelain of the Ming dynasty. All throughout Chinese history, every dynasty had experimented and furthered the art of ceramic, pushing the craft to an artistic height. So great was the love for Chinese porcelain in the West, that for a long time, porcelain was referred to as “china” associating the polished art of pottery with the culture of China.
In general, there are two kinds of ceramics in China: clay and porcelain. Clay pottery has existed in China for a long time. Archaeological evidence suggests that red pottery, grey pottery and black pottery went as far back as 5000 B.C. Porcelain had a shorter history but a more rapid and varied development. Beginning in approximate 220 A.D, porcelain was produced and achieved distinctive and sophisticated levels by the Ming dynasty.
So developed was the craft of porcelain ceramic pottery by the Ming dynasty that there were fifteen different types of glaze for the color green alone.
There were also distinctive styles and decorative motifs that arose each unique to the dynasty and the region where they were produced.
The Tang dynasty was famous for their Sancai ceramic wares. Sancai literally means three colors, and the ceramics are recognizable for their three-colored glaze of red, yellow and green. Sancai is a type of low-fired glaze pottery. Low-fired glaze technique had been practiced since 221 B.C during the warring states era.
Originating in the Song dynasty, in the Yixing province of China, the famous zisha ceramics first appeared. Made from fine clay with high iron content, zisha was used to make unglazed tea pots usually in light brown, yellowish brown or a unique dark purple. Hence the name zisha, meaning, “purple clay”. If you would like to learn more about this unique type of Chinese ceramics, you can read more in our February 2001 newsletter.
Called doucai, meaning “competing colors”, the Ming dynasty was famous for their beautiful blue and white wares that were widely exported into the West. It was also in this period that under glazing was used in conjunction with over glazing, creating complex and vibrant ceramics.
By the time of Qing dynasty, ceramics were so sophisticated that all the different techniques were being employed and there were a variety of styles that flourished. Among them is the Yi Jun ware made of white or purple clay that employed an opaque glaze so that the effect was a magnificent sky blue.
All these various ceramic techniques continue to be employed in modern Asian ceramics. Many of today’s most delicate and exquisite ceramic wares are created from a combination of these techniques passed down through the dynasties and generations.
Here at Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen, we continue this tradition of dedication to the beauty of Chinese ceramics. We have a magnificent zisha tea set collection . Our black alloy dinnerware set is reminiscent of black pottery techniques that go back to the Shang dynasty. For a sample of Yi Jun ware, our Blue dragonfly collection achieves the same aesthetics of an opaque brilliant blue glaze. Capturing the elegance of the Ming doucai, is our Cherry Blossom Rice Bowl set . With all these choices and styles for contemporary ceramics, thanks have to be given to the continued development of this craft over the millennia throughout the various Chinese dynasties.
Long associated with nobility and luxury, silk is well loved all over the world for its smooth texture and its shimmering appearance caused by the triangular prism-like structure of silk fiber that refracts light, giving silk its shiny appearance. Today, silk is produced in many countries all over the world. But for a long time, silk remained produced solely in China and was associated with Chinese culture.
Silk originated in China during the Shang dynasty, as early as 1500 B.C. Silk came from the cocoons of silk worms that fed off the leaves of mulberry trees native to China. When the silk worm is done feeding off the leaves and its cocoon complete, the chrysalis is destroyed by boiling the cocoon. The outer floss of the cocoon is then removed, and the remain silk threads are reeled for use.
Silk was so highly valued that it was once used as a form of currency across different cultures in trading. Today’s practice of the banknote currency is based on the practice of silk as a form of currency. This common usage of silk was based on the recognition of its value across different cultures. During Kublai Khan’s rule, when Marco Polo wrote of his travels, paper money was widely used. Its name was “sichao” or silk notes. This was because the notes were backed by silk that could be exchanged for silver.
The famous Silk Road, made up of several trade routes leading from China into Rome and even into Africa, was named based on the prominence of the silk trade. Silk was not only important to China’s economy but also the ancient world’s commerce.
The practice of developing silk production into an industry happened in China as early as the Warring states period, as royal and private workshops were established. All throughout Chinese history, the harvesting and manufacturing of silk pushed world trade and the development of silk. Over time, countries along the trade routes started to develop their own silk cultures.
Here at Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen, we have a wide array of elegant silk products. We have luxurious silk table runners that will add a rich touch of refinement to your table, and finely crafted silk hand fans. Just as silk has delighted generations of people across the world, these delicate pieces of silk craft will bring the old world charm of this ancient treasure into your homes.
OUR 2010 NEWSLETTERS
The legacy of Chinese Dynasties Part II
The legacy of Chinese Dynasties Part I
Tengu, Hyottoko, Tanuki and Other Popular Japanese Folklore Figures
East Asian Writing: Their beauty and their history
Calligraphy & Sumi-e
The Bento Box
Japanese Woodblock Printing
Magical Meaning of Cranes
Chinese Chop Seal & Ink
Japanese Furoshiki and Noren
The Magnificent of Mount Fuji
MAY WE SUGGEST:
Cherry Blossom Rice Bowl set (9579)
silk hand fans (7918)