A Brief History of Porcelain Dinnerware: From China to the World

Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating materials, usually including materials such as kaolinite, in kilns at temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F) is between The strength and transparency of porcelain, compared to other types of pottery, is primarily due to the vitrification and formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures. Although definitions vary, porcelain can be divided into three main types: hard-paste, soft-paste, and bone china. The category to which an object belongs depends on the composition of the paste used to make the porcelain body and the firing conditions.

Porcelain was first manufactured in China around 600 AD. The skillful conversion of ordinary clay into elegant objects has enraptured the imagination of people throughout history and around the world. Chinese ceramics, by far the most advanced in the world, were made for the imperial court, the domestic market, or export. Porcelain developed slowly in China and was finally acquired sometime around 2,000 to 1,200 years ago (depending on the definition used). It gradually spread to other East Asian countries, then Europe, and finally the rest of the world.

Chinese Porcelain

Porcelain was invented in China over a centuries-long development beginning with the "proto-porcelain" ware of the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). By the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty (CE 25–220), these early glazed ceramic wares had evolved into porcelain, which the Chinese referred to as high-fired ware. By the late Sui dynasty (581–618 CE) and early Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), the now standard requirements of whiteness and transparency were achieved in varieties such as ding ware. These goods were already exported to the Islamic world, where they were highly valued.

By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), porcelain was being exported to Asia and Europe. Some popular styles of Chinese porcelain reached Europe during this period, such as the "blue and white" ware. The Ming dynasty controlled much of the porcelain trade, which was extended to Asia, Africa, and Europe via the Silk Road. In 1517, Portuguese merchants began direct sea trade with the Ming dynasty, and in 1598 Dutch merchants followed.

Porcelain became a source of imperial pride during the Ming Dynasty. The Yongle Emperor erected a white porcelain brick pagoda in Nanjing, and an unusual smooth-glazed type of white porcelain is characteristic of his reign. The fame of Jingdezhen porcelain reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty.

.During the last long dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (1664 - 1912 AD), the Manchu conquest temporarily halted porcelain production. Emperor Kangxi reorganized Jingdezhen, and rulers and other wealthy people from all over the world would send portraits, statues, and designs and request that they are reproduced in porcelain. Enamel-painted porcelain became mainstream, along with elaborately painted porcelain for the Qing imperial court. The beautiful and popular 'Famille-rose' porcelain was also a specialty of porcelain made during the Kangxi period. However, Chinese porcelain remains highly prized for its exotic artwork, bright and beautiful colors, durability, and utility, and for being relatively cheap.

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French porcelain

Today, the excellence of French porcelain is recognized throughout the world. The history of French porcelain spans from the 17th century to the present day. French Chinese and Japanese export porcelain were heavily involved in early European efforts to discover the secrets of making hard-paste porcelain. They succeeded in producing soft-paste porcelain, but Meissen porcelain was the first to produce true hard-paste around 1710, and it took the French over 50 years to catch up to Meissen and other German factories.

Louis XIV obtained 1,500 pieces of porcelain from the Siamese embassy to France in 1686, but the secret of manufacture was still missing.

France finally discovered the Chinese technique of hard-paste porcelain between 1712 and 1722 through the efforts of Jesuit Father Francois Xavier d'Entrecoles. Letters to Father Oury in Paris were first published in 1735 by Jean-Baptiste du Hald, with English editions appearing in 1736 or 1738.

These letters were later reprinted by Abigail Jean-Baptiste Grosier in his General Description of China. D'Entrecolles also sent material samples to Europe, which were analyzed by Réaumur, and after equivalent materials were found in Europe, the Sèvres Manufactory was established.

A patent granted to the Chantilly factory in 1735 by Louis XV specifically specified the right to make porcelain façon de Japon ("in imitation of Japanese porcelain").

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England Porcelain

In England, the first soft-paste porcelain dinnerware was demonstrated by Thomas Briand at the Royal Society in 1742 and is believed to have been based on the St Cloud formula. In 1749, Thomas Fry patented a porcelain pot containing bone ash. This was the first bone china, later completed by Josiah Spode. William Cookworthy discovered kaolin deposits in Cornwall, and his factory in Plymouth, established in 1768, produced hard-paste porcelain with a physical texture similar to early 18th-century Chinese porcelain.

But the great success of English ceramics in the 18th century was based on soft-paste porcelain, and improved earthenware such as creamware, which could compete with porcelain, and by the end of the century France and other continental the finance industries of the countries were destroyed. Most English porcelain from the late 18th century to the present day is bone china.

Twenty-five years after Briand's demonstration, a number of factories were established in England to make soft-paste dinnerware.

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The Export Market

Porcelain dinnerware was first exported in huge quantities during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The government supported it as an important source of income. Early in this period, ports were established in Guangzhou (Canton), Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Ningbo to facilitate trade activities. The ceramics trade established in the Song dynasty was maintained in the later Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and, with few interruptions, in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. At different times markets were concentrated in different regions, but the global influence of Chinese porcelain remains intact. Within Asia, by the fourteenth century, Korean potters imitated Chinese porcelain with considerable success, and Japanese potters did so for a long time.

In the Middle East, efforts to reproduce Chinese wares in the twelfth century continued throughout the Ming period. In Europe, however, porcelain was barely known before the seventeenth century. The British and Germans mass-produced similar hard-bodied wares in the eighteenth century.

Chinese porcelain influenced the ceramics of the importing countries, and was, in turn, influenced by them. For example, importers produced specific shapes and designs, and many were produced specifically for foreign markets. These often enter the repertory of Chinese household items. Thus, Chinese ceramics were a vehicle for the exchange of decorative styles around the world.

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