Ancient China Vases

Ancient Chinese vases are part of the origins of the Chinese pottery.  The Ancient Chinese pottery goes back more than 17,000 years ago and can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty period.

Blue and White Ware

Vases of the Han Dynasty

During the Han Dynasty, some of the first vases were made.  Many of these vases were made with kaolin but they were used mostly as funerary jars, or jars that were used in tombs.

Many of these types of vases were covered with pictures of animals or houses and was glazed to protect it when it was put inside of tombs.


Vases of the Tang and Sui Dynasties

It was during this time that vases were made that were made to be placed in the tombs of noble people.

These vases were not used for any type of cooking or eating and most of them were very beautiful and shiny.

The vases were made of clay, but they were very thin and considered to be almost as see through as glass.  These vases were often times white or almost clear.

Vases of Liao, Song, Xia and Jin Dynasties

During this time, the teachings of Confucius were very popular and even artists wanted to make sure to follow these teachings.

Most of the vases were carved instead of painted and if they were painted, they would choose to use other colors besides blue because blue was considered to be prideful.

Artists wanted to be simple and using blue was considered to be too fancy.

Since blue was not a popular color, the vases during this time were most of the time green and they were very plain.

These vases did not cost much to make, and they did not sell for much on the trade route.

Vases of the Yuan Dynasty

During the Yuan Dynasty, blue and white became very popular and this was called cobalt vases.

These types of vases were popular and were known to have many different patterns painted on them.

These vases were considered to be some of the finest vases that were made, and they had perfect shapes and were carved with different decorations.

The vases during the Yuan Dynasty were brightly colored and some of them even had metal on them.

Many of the vases were decorated with different Chinese traditions such as dragons, animals or fish.

Chinese Flask

Vases of the Ming Dynasty

There have been many vases that have been found, during the Ming Dynasty, in different tombs and were used as grave goods.

The Ming Dynasty is known for making vases that are colorful and that have different shapes and designs as compared to other dynasties.

This dynasty is known as a time of export and they were known to export many of their vases to places all around the world.

Since kaolin, a product that helps to make pottery, was easily found during this time, it was easy for potters to make these vases and other pottery pieces.

Those from the Ming Dynasty created egg-shaped kiln to heat their vases in and these allowed them to fire the pottery at lower temperatures so that it would not break as easy.

More Facts About Ancient Chinese Vases

  • Most Ancient Chinese Vases were used as grave goods.
  • Vases that were used as grave goods were sometimes decorated according to their ancestors.
  • Many of the early vases were decorated with orange bodies and black paint.
  • Fish were important subjects during Ancient Chinese pottery making.
  • Many of the vases were made of poisonous materials, this is why they were used in graves and not eaten out of.
  • It is hard to date some of the Ancient Chinese vases because of the way that the vases were made is sometimes similar to other eras.
  • Some vases were decorated with farm animals and houses.
  • During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, it was popular for potters to only use three colors when decorating the vases.
  • Many of the grave ware vases were not even painted.
  • Pottery during the Song Dynasty was very popular, and it became known as a period of “Five Great Kilns.”

What Did You Learn?

  • When were some of the first vases thought to be made?  The first vases were thought to be made during the Han Dynasty; some are thought to be over 17,000 years old.
  • During the Tang and Sui Dynasties, what was the purpose of the Ancient Chinese vases?  The Ancient Chinese vases during the Tang and Sui Dynasties were to be put in tombs.
  • Why were vases not eaten off of during the Ancient Chinese times?  The vases were not eaten off of because they were made from poisonous materials.
  • Were all of the vases painted?  No.  Some vases were not painted, most of the unpainted vases were strictly used in tombs.
  • What were the vases called during the Yuan Dynasty?  During the Yuan Dynasty, cobalt vases were very popular.  These were blue and white vases.
  • Why did potters from the Liao, Song, Xia and Jin Dynasties not use the color blue or a blue glaze?  The potters from these dynasties did not use the color blue because blue was considered to be a prideful color.