Tag Archives: Ancient

Ancient Chinese Art

Different forms of art have been influenced by great philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political leaders.

Early forms of art in China were made from pottery and jade in the Neolithic period, to which bronze was added in the Shang Dynasty. The Shang are most remembered for their bronze casting, noted for its clarity of detail.

Fragments of pottery vessels dating from around the year 9000 BC found at the Xianrendong (Spirit Cave) site, Wannian County, in the province of Jiangxi represent some of the earliest known Chinese ceramics. The wares were hand-made by coiling and fired in bonfires. Decorations include impressed cord marks, and features produced by stamping and piercing.

The Xianrendong site was occupied from about 9000 BC to about 4000 BC. During this period two types of pottery were made. The first consisted of coarse-bodied wares possibly intended for everyday use. The second being finer, thinner-bodied wares possibly intended for ritual use or special occasions. There is archaeological evidence suggesting that both types of wares were produced at the same time at some point.

Some experts believe the first true porcelain was made in the province of Zhejiang during the Eastern Han period. Chinese experts emphasize the presence of a significant proportion of porcelain-building minerals (china clay, porcelain stone or a combination of both) as an important factor in defining porcelain. Shards recovered from archaeological Eastern Han kiln sites estimated firing temperature ranged from 1260 to 1300°C, as far back as 1000 BC. In early imperial China, porcelain was introduced and was refined to the point that in English the word china has become synonymous with high-quality porcelain.

During the Sui and Tang periods (581 to 906) a wide range of ceramics, low-fired and high-fired, were produced. These included the well-known Tang lead-glazed sancai (three-colour) wares, the high-firing, lime-glazed Yue celadon wares and low-fired wares from Changsha. In northern China, high-fired, translucent porcelains were made at kilns in the provinces of Henan and Hebei. One of the first mentions of porcelain by a foreigner was made by an Arabian traveler during the Tang Dynasty who recorded that:
””They have in China a very fine clay with which they make vases which are as transparent as glass; water is seen through them. The vases are made of clay”

Tang Sancai burial wares have become a very popular for of art. “Sancai” means three-colours. However, the colours of the glazes used to decorate the wares of the Tang dynasty were not limited to three in number. In the West, Tang sancai wares were sometimes referred to as egg-and-spinach by dealers for the use of green, yellow and white. Though the latter of the two colours might be more properly described as amber and off-white / cream.

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Chinese Teapots Ancient And Modern

The history of tea drinking goes back way before the invention of teapots. One story about the origin of tea as a drink credits a Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, from the 3rd century BCE, as the inventor. It’s said that he was boiling drinking water while sitting under a tea tree when some of the leaves fell into the water, and he enjoyed the taste so much that he continued to drink tea for pleasure. Another says that a Buddhist monk, in the process of a long meditation, became tired and cut off his drooping eyelids, throwing them on to the ground, where a tea plant suddenly sprouted. When the monk made a drink from the leaves, he found it helped alleviate his tiredness.

 

Whatever the true origins of tea drinking, we believe that the plant was first cultivated in China around the 4th century CE, when wild plants were brought to the country from India. Originally, the leaves of the tea plant were hand-rolled, dried and ground into powder, which was mixed with salt and made into balls to be dissolved in hot water to make the drink. Later, the dried powder was used on its own, and mixed with hot water in a bowl. It wasn’t until some time in the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th century) that using the whole leaves became popular, and this was when the first Chinese teapots seem to have come into existence. These early Chinese teapots were made of clay, and probably used not only for brewing the tea, but also for drinking it. Of course, China was famed for its use of clayware, such as porcelain, and soon Chinese teapots were in demand in Japan, where the tradition of tea drinking quickly took off, and subsequently around the world.

 

Today, Chinese teapots and other china products are still highly valued. But recently, glass teapots have become really popular, too. These have the great advantage that the tea leaves can be seen brewing, swirling around in the transparent bowl of the pot, and it’s easy to see when the tea has reached the preferred strength. Glass teapots are also just as good at retaining heat as china ones, and are very easy to clean (especially as it’s easy to see when the residue has been removed). With the recent popularity of whole flowers, such as jasmine, peach, peony, and orange, being used to make tea, glass teapots make the whole process one to be really cherished and enjoyed; just steep the flower in boiling water for three to five minutes, and watch it open while the flavors are diffused throughout the drink.

 

There’s a whole range of glass teapots to choose from, including traditional Chinese teapot shapes, and more modern ones designed especially for flowering teas, such as the Shan glass teapot, which is tall and slender, allowing the flowering tea to be displayed at its best. Try using a glass teapot the next time you have friends around, and you’ll see just how much of an impression it (and you!) make!

 

For both traditional Chinese teapot and modern Glass teapot, check out The Exotic Teapot company. You’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for among their great range.