Ancient China Pottery

The Ancient Chinese pottery was also called Chinese ceramics.  This type of art was made by clay and it was heated to a really high temperature.

Pottery was considered to be a very strong and durable material and was used for many reasons throughout Ancient China.

Potter at work

When Was the Earliest Pottery Made?

The earliest pottery was made before 1600 BCE during the Neolithic Period.

Most of the pottery made during this time was made for storing things and was made into different types of designs.  Most of the designs were based on geometric shapes.

Many of the pottery pieces were designed with different types of painting such as fish, deer’s, plants and birds and had many different colors on them.

Other pieces were painted with pictures of people hunting and pictures of human faces.

Later, most of the pottery was made black or dark gray and this type of pottery was not painted, and it looked like it was made out of metal.

Kinds of Pottery

There are different kinds of pottery that were created during Ancient Chinese times.

Each of these kinds of pottery were made from different materials such as clay, water, feldspar, soapstone and other materials.

Earthenware is one type of pottery.  It has different colors from red, to black to gray and can be decorated with a mixture of water and clay which is called slip.

Earthenware pottery was able to withstand high heat and cold temperatures, so it was mostly made for cooking.

Stoneware is another Ancient Chinese pottery.  This pottery’s color can be different ranging from red, black, white, gray and even brown.

Stoneware is considered to be super hard and it is sometimes translucent, which means shiny.

Stoneware became mostly popular when tea became popular and this was used as a substitute for porcelain in some Chinese areas.

Porcelain is also considered to be pottery.  Ancient Chinese porcelain is the next thing to glass, since glass cannot be shaped, porcelain was used because it is shapeable.

Clay Mixture

Pottery During the Shang Dynasty

Pottery during the Shang Dynasty changed because technology became better and people were able to learn how to make pottery stronger and better looking.

With the advancement of technology, potters were able to make pottery that was harder and use glazes to protect the pottery.

Most of the pottery during the Shang Dynasty was used for ceremonial or religious purposes and was sometimes decorated with bronzes.

Pottery During the Zhou Dynasty

During the Zhou Dynasty, pottery continued to change.  People began making dishes out of the clay and they made things like glasses that had stems.

These pottery pieces were most of the time brown or green.The pottery during the Zhou Dynasty was fancier and was oftentimes covered in jewels, metal or shells.

Pottery During the Han Dynasty

Many times, during Ancient China, people would put pottery pieces such as vases or other vessels in the graves of their loved ones.

This was a known ceremony during the Han Dynasty and many of the pottery pieces that were discovered were found in graves.

The pottery during this time was oftentimes painted with animals and buildings and would be covered in copper so that it would last for years and years.

Pottery During the Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties

There were many different types of pottery during these times in Ancient China.  Some of them included pitchers, jars, cups, plates and even grave goods.

Most of the pottery during this time was simple and was not covered in exciting paintings or with ritual pictures but was mostly just one color or decorated with flowers.

Pottery During the Sui and Tang Dynasties

The Sui and Tang Dynasties are known for making pottery that is considered “white porcelain.”

This pottery became famous for the different colors that they were tinted.  Most of the colors were green, brown or yellow but they sometimes were painted blue or other bright colors.

Another type of pottery during this time was called black pottery and it was usually shaped in different shapes such as birds or medals.

These pottery pieces also had Buddhist shapes and symbols.This was the period of Ancient Chinese when tomb figures became important.

The tomb figures were made out of pottery and they were used to make human like figures of servants, soldiers, dancers and more.

The Terracotta Army was made out of pottery.  This was created for the first emperor of China and was used as a funeral ritual.

The Terracotta Army was created to look like the Qin Shi Huang and was made to help protect the emperor in his afterlife.

Fragment of an earthen vessel

More Facts About Ancient Chinese Pottery:

  • Some potters made symbols by scratching them into the surface of the pottery with a knife.
  • Glaze was made as a covering for pottery that would go into burial tombs.
  • Some pottery was marbled by mixing contrasting colors.
  • Most pottery of Ancient China has a flat base.
  • Dragons became an important part of pottery during the Ming Dynasty.
  • “Chicken cups” were another kind of pottery that were small cups with chickens painted on them.
  • Teapots were popular during the Qing Dynasty, when tea became a popular drink.
  • Many of the pottery pieces had poetry inscribed on the bottom of them.
  • Flowers were considered a popular decoration for pottery during the Chenghua period.

What Did You Learn?

  • What were three different types of Ancient Chinese pottery?  Three different types of Ancient Chinese pottery were earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware.
  • Why was pottery during the Shang Dynasty different?  During the Shang Dynasty, technology became better and it helped pottery to become easier to make.
  • In what period was the earliest pottery made?  The earliest pottery was made during the Neolithic period.
  • What are some designs that were put on Ancient Chinese pottery?  Some of the designs on Ancient Chinese pottery were dragons, flowers, and birds.  There were many, many other designs.
  • What drink became popular that helped pottery to become more popular?  When tea became an important drink, pottery became more popular.
  • What were some uses of the pottery?  Pottery during Ancient Chinese was used for many different things including for burial goods, as dishes, to hold things and to make statues.
  • What are the pottery statues called that were used to protect the emperor in his afterlife?  This pottery was called the Terracotta Army.  There were many soldiers and horses that were made for grave goods.